21 killed, 60 injured in blast near Colombo (Third Lead)

June 6th, 2008 - 5:57 pm ICT by IANS  

By P. Karunakharan
Colombo, June 6 (IANS) At least 21 people were killed and 60 injured Friday when a powerful bomb ripped through a packed public transport bus near the Sri Lankan capital in the third such attack in two weeks. The roadside bomb went off at about 7.30 a.m. near the Moratuwa University, some 20 km south of Colombo, and a bus passing that way on its way to Mount Lavinia just outside the capital bore the brunt.

Officials said the bomb had been detonated by remote control. The dead included 13 men and eight women. The explosion site is close to a Buddhist temple.

The authorities immediately blamed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which is facing a military onslaught in the areas it controls in the island’s north.

“LTTE terrorists exploded a bomb targeting a crowded public transport bus close to the Buddhist temple,” the defence ministry said in a statement.

The bus turned into a wreck. Preliminary investigations revealed that “the terrorists exploded a roadside bomb, which had been triggered by remote control”, a military official said.

Television channels showed footage of the bloodied site, wounded civilians soaked in blood being evacuated to the nearby hospitals.

Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said that the police and military teams were rushed to the site for rescue efforts.

The defence ministry said a claymore mine weighing five kilogrammes, a micro pistol and a “few war like items” were recovered.

These were found from a privately owned land located along the Second Cross Street near Abesekararamaya in Mount Lavinia, the ministry added.

This is the third blast targeting public transport in two weeks in and around Colombo.

On Wednesday, 18 people were injured when a bomb targeting a passenger train exploded at Dehiwela, on the outskirts of Colombo. On May 26, nine civilians were killed and over 90 wounded when a powerful bomb ripped through a crowded train coach, also in Dehiwela.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa Friday issued a statement condemning the latest attack.

“This is further proof of the LTTE’s frenzy (over) its major military setbacks in the north and the loss of its hold on the eastern province,” he said.

“The continued targeting of innocent civilians by the LTTE must earn the outrage and opprobrium of all civilised societies who can now see the reality of the LTTE’s unvarying commitment to violence and terror to achieve its narrow objectives,” the president said, adding that the motive behind the attack was “to provoke a backlash against the Tamil people”.

There was no immediate reaction from the LTTE, which claimed May 27 that six civilians, including two children, were killed and four wounded in a claymore mine explosion in the rebel-held area of Wanni a day earlier.

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