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Latest update : 2008-04-06

Sri Lankan Highways Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle was among the 10 people killed in a bomb attack near Colombo, according to a government official.

Sri Lanka's highways minister and at least nine other people were killed on Sunday by a blast near Colombo that was blamed on Tamil Tiger rebels, a security official said.

"Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle is dead from the explosion," Laksman Hulugalla, director general of the media centre for national security, told Reuters.

The military said 10 people were killed and 25 injured by the explosion in the western district of Gampaha, where Fernandopulle was attending a public function.

Military officials said they suspected that Tamil Tigers were responsible for the blast in the town of Weliveriya, 30 km (19 miles) from the capital, Colombo.

The attack came as the Sri Lankan military presses on with an offensive to retake the Tigers' northern stronghold. Nearly 60 rebels were killed in two days of gunbattles along the northern frontier, the government said earlier this week.

The Tigers have been fighting for an independent state in the north and east of the war-scarred island in a 25-year civil war that has killed an estimated 70,000 people.

In January the government called off a a tattered 2002 ceasefire, accusing the rebels of using it to regroup and re-arm, and vowed to fight them militarily.

Date created : 2008-04-06