At least nine people were killed and more than seventy injured after a suicide bomber rammed into a police bus in the commercial quarter of the Sri Lankan capital city of Colombo. (Report: C.Massé)
At least nine people were killed and 95 others wounded Friday in a Tamil Tiger suicide bombing near the official residence of Sri Lanka's president in the capital Colombo, officials said.
Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said seven police officers and two other people -- plus the attacker -- died when a motorbike rammed into a bus ferrying police and exploded. The massive blast was heard across the city.
The car of Sri Lanka's sports minister, Gamini Lokuge, was also caught up in the blast, police said. He escaped unhurt, but his driver was among the dead.
At least 62 civilians, 30 policemen and three soldiers were among those injured, said national hospital director Hector Weerasinghe.
"A motorbike carrying an LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) suicide bomber rammed into a bus carrying police personnel," Nanayakkara said.
The attack occurred outside a Buddhist temple in the Fort area of Colombo's commercial district, a high security zone surrounded by several rings of military and police check posts.
The area is home to the official residence of the island's hawkish President Mahinda Rajapakse, the five-star Hilton and Galadari Hotels and the twin-tower World Trade Centre office complex -- a previous LTTE target.
"Our building shook and there was thick black smoke. We are still shaken up," said office executive Dayan Gunasekera, who works across the road from the bombing site.
President Rajapakse said the attack only reinforced his decision in January to pull out of a Norwegian-brokered truce with the Tigers and step up a military offensive against the rebels' mini-state in the north of the island.
"Repeated savagery reiterates the need for concerted action by all those who cherish democracy, human rights and the values of civilised society, to eradicate the menace of terrorism," he said.
Rajapakse's government was scheduled later Friday to swear in the winners of last weekend's key council elections in the island's east, which were won by the president's ruling coalition and an allied party made up of LTTE defectors.
The government heralded the polls as a sign it has established firm control over the multi-ethnic east, which prior to heavy fighting last year was home to several LTTE enclaves.
The LTTE did not immediately confirm or deny it carried out the bombing. The pro-rebel TamilNet.com website said the attack targeted police travelling to provide security for the swearing-in ceremony.
TamilNet.com also said the leader of the Tamil Tiger breakaway group was scheduled to be sworn in as the east's new chief minister.
Colombo has poured a record 1.5 billion dollars into the war effort this year, hoping for a quick end to a conflict that has left tens of thousands dead since 1972.
The rebels are fighting to carve out a separate Tamil homeland in the north and east of the ethnic Sinhalese-majority island, and frequently deploy what they call "Black Tigers" -- members of a unit specifically trained for suicide missions.
Friday's bombing was the third major Tamil Tiger attack in just a week.
On the eve of the May 10 provincial elections, a bomb ripped through a crowded cafe in the eastern town of Ampara, killing 12 people and wounding at least 36.
Hours before polling started, an LTTE suicide diver also sank a navy cargo ship docked at the eastern port of Trincomalee.
Date created : 2008-05-16