27 killed in Sri Lanka suicide attack (Roundup)October 6th, 2008 - 9:31 pm ICT by IANS
Colombo, Oct 6 (IANS) A suspected Tamil Tiger suicide bomber Monday blew up at an opposition rally in Sri Lanka’s northern Anuradhapura town, killing 27 people including former army chief Janaka Perera.Nearly 90 others were injured in the dramatic attack at a meeting of the United National Party (UNP) when the bomber disguised as a party supporter exploded himself at 8.45 a.m. near the town’s Old Bus Stand, over 200 km north of Colombo.
The wounded, some in serious condition, were admitted to the Anuradhapura military hospital. It was the worst suicide bombing in Sri Lanka since a former minister and 13 civilians died in Gampaha district in April.
Military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara blamed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for the gruesome attack.
According to military officials, the 27 dead included retired Maj. Gen. Janaka Perera, who headed the Sri Lanka Army in 2000-01 and was the leader of the opposition in the northcentral provincial assembly, and John Pulle, the UNP manager for Anuradhapura, as well as their wives.
Perera served as the chief of staff of the Sri Lanka Army in 2000-01. In his 35-year service, he led several operations against the LTTE.
After retiring from the army, he served as Sri Lanka’s envoys to Australia and Indonesia. Perera later joined the UNP.
A UNP MP here said the explosion took place at a function to declare open a new party office in Anuradhapura town.
Military sources said the suicide bomber was disguised as a party supporter. He mingled with other civilians in the party compound, minutes before the arrival of the former army chief and other invitees.
The defence ministry website carried photographs of the bloodied site, now sealed off by the police.
Also killed in the explosion was a journalist of a prominent private television channel in Colombo and some UNP provincial council members.
The Maharaja Television Network (MTV) identified the dead journalist as Mohammed Rashmi Maharoof, 31. He was covering the UNP meeting.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa condemned the killing of Perera and said the attack “was further proof of the need for everyone to unit for the success of the ongoing campaign to eradicate terrorism in the country”.
The US embassy also denounced the suicide bombing, calling it a “reprehensible attack on civilians”.
An embassy statement said: “Its perpetrators have advanced no cause other than to bring further suffering to the people of Sri Lanka. Only a political solution, not further violence, can provide a way forward to ending the country’s deadly conflict.”
The suicide attack took place as the military claimed it was advancing from various directions and was just two kilometres from the LTTE’s “administrative capital” of Kilinochchi.
The LTTE has been fighting to carve out a separate state for Tamils in the northern and eastern parts of the island for a quarter century. Thousands have died in renewed fighting between the LTTE and the military since late 2005.