18 injured in bus blast outside Colombo

February 23rd, 2008 - 7:41 pm ICT by admin  

(Second Lead)
By P.K. Balachandran
Colombo, Feb 23 (IANS) At least 18 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 at Mount Lavinia, eight km south of Colombo, at about 10.55 a.m. The injured included 10 men, seven women and a child.

The defence ministry blamed the rebel group, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), for the blast.

Officials said a passenger had alerted the conductor about a suspicious parcel kept at the back of the bus. The conductor immediately saw to it that all the passengers got down. The bomb squad was then informed. But the bomb went off before the squad could arrive.

The driver, the conductor and some others in the immediate vicinity of the blast were injured, albeit slightly. 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,” an official 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.

Security sources said 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 deaths with pictures put on websites sympathetic to it.

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