17 injured in bus blast outside Colombo

February 23rd, 2008 - 2:53 pm ICT by admin  

(Lead)
By P.K. Balachandran
Colombo, Feb 23 (IANS) At least 17 people were injured when a powerful blast ripped through a passenger bus on the outskirts of the Sri Lankan capital Saturday morning, a defence spokesperson said. The explosion occurred in Mount Lavinia, eight kilometres south of Colombo, at about 10.55 a.m. Among the injured were nine men, seven women and a child.

Military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara told journalists that the casualties would have been much higher if the bus conductor had not noticed a suspicious-looking parcel kept at the back and asked passengers to get down quickly. The passengers were about to inform the police bomb squad when the blast occurred.

The driver, conductor and others in the immediate vicinity of the blast were injured. Nine of the injured were rushed to the nearest hospital at Kalubowila.

“There would have been a carnage if the passengers had remained in the bus. The bus was completely destroyed,” Nanayakkara said.

Television footage showed the bus in a shambles and burning, with the luggage of the passengers strewn over a considerable area.

The inter-city bus was on its way from Moratuwa to Colombo when the blast occurred.

Nanayakkara blamed the rebel group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for the blast.

Security sources said that it was significant that the blast near Colombo should occur after eight civilians, including a young mother and a six-month-old baby, were killed in an air raid on Sivapuram, near Pooneryn, an area controlled by the LTTE in north Sri Lanka.

The LTTE had given wide publicity to the carnage with pictures put on web sites sympathetic to it.

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