LTTE suicide bomber kills 23 in Sri Lanka (Roundup)

February 9th, 2009 - 9:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Feb 9 (IANS) At least 23 people were killed when a suspected Tamil Tiger suicide bomber Monday exploded herself among civilians fleeing Sri Lanka’s war zone, the authorities said.

The Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) said the woman bomber detonated herself amid frightened civilians entering the areas held by the army in the northern district of Mullaitivu.

Military officials said the bomber belonged to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), whose guerrillas are now holed up in an area measuring less than 200 sq km by the Sri Lankan military.

The MCNS statement said the suicide bomber “blew herself at an IDP (Internally Displaced People) rescue centre” north of Vishwamadhu around 11.30 a.m.

It said 15 soldiers and eight civilians were killed in the devastating blast. At least 24 soldiers and 40 civilians were also injured.

Most of the civilian dead were women and children. Three of the soldiers who died were women.

Military spokesman Udaya Nanayakkara said women soldiers were screening female civilians when the suicide bomber exploded herself.

The horrific bombing drew condemnation from both the United Nations and the US.

“The UN reiterates that civilians must be distinguished from combatants and protected from the fighting,” it said in a statement. “It calls again on the LTTE to separate its forces from civilians under its control.”

A statement from the US embassy described the bombing as an “apparent effort by the LTTE to discourage Tamils from leaving the conflict area”.

It urged the LTTE to allow all civilians freedom of movement.

A former military nerve centre of the LTTE, Mullaitivu town, located some 350 km northeast of Colombo, was captured by the military last month after months of fierce fighting.

Vishwamadhu and the adjoining Suthanthirapuram areas are on the east of the A-35 road that links Paranthan and Mullaitivu towns.

Nanayakkara said the wounded civilians were rushed to army medical centres before being transferred to hospitals in Vavuniya and Anuradhapura towns.

The air force brought at least 35 injured people to Anuradhapura. Fifteen of the injured were children.

“This is yet another desperate attempt by the LTTE to prevent thousands of displaced civilians from fleeing the areas controlled by them and enter the government-held areas,” Nanayakkara said.

The suicide attack came at a time when pro-LTTE websites allege that scores of civilians were killed in the rapidly shrinking LTTE areas due to shelling and aerial attacks.

The military says the Tamil Tigers are holding thousands of civilians as human shield in a desperate bid to prevent a final assault on their jungle hideouts.

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