Suicide attack on Sri Lankan Muslims kills 14

March 10th, 2009 - 7:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, March 10 (IANS) Fourteen people were killed and about 30, including a minister, were seriously wounded Tuesday as a suspected Tamil Tiger suicide bomber targeted a procession celebrating Prophet Mohammed’s birthday in southern Sri Lanka, the authorities said.

The government immediately blamed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for the ghastly attack that took place around 10.30 a.m. near Jumma mosque at Godapitiya in Akurassa town, about 160 km south of Colombo.

Post and Telecommunication Minister Mahinda Wijesekara was among the seriously wounded and was flown to Colombo with two others for specialised medical care.

This is the first suicide attack in Matara, the southernmost region and populated overwhelmingly by the majority Sinhalese community.

Television channels showed footage of bloodied and frightened people running in different directions as the deafening explosion ripped through the procession led by ministers.

Petroleum Minister A.H.M. Fowzie was among the ministers who escaped unhurt.

The Milad-un-Nabi, the birthday of the prophet, is celebrated as a national festival in Sri Lanka. Muslims are the third largest community in Sri Lanka after the mainly Buddhist Sinhalese and largely Hindu Tamils.

It is not known whether the LTTE suicide bomber was a male or a female.

Suicide bombings are the hallmark of the LTTE, whose struggle for a Tamil state has claimed over 70,000 lives since 1983.

Police and security forces cordoned off the blast site and launched search operations to track down possible associates of the suicide bomber.

Hundreds of men and women crowded the hospital where the wounded were being treated. Many broke down.

Tuesday’s attack came as the military said it was in the final phase of recapturing the last of a vastly shrunken area still controlled by the LTTE in Mullaitivu district in Sri Lanka’s northeast.

Sri Lanka said the bombing would only “strengthen its resolve to end terrorism” in the island nation.

“This is another desperate act that the LTTE terrorists, now on their last legs, have perpetrated to divert the attention from the humanitarian mission of the security forces, to flush them out from their last remaining foothold,” the government said in a statement.

It said the attack bore “the unmistakable signature of the LTTE. The attack reaffirms the fact that the LTTE is not only a ruthless terrorist outfit but also one which has no regard or respect for religion.

“The government remains unwaveringly committed to rid the country of the terrorist menace and bring peace. This attack will only serve to strengthen the resolve of the government and the security forces in this regard.”

Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said the LTTE had “resorted to this kind of activities” now that they no longer controlled territory in the northeast.

He said the LTTE’s aim was to get civilians killed so that there would be a backlash “and they could gain some international attention”.

Although Tamil-speaking Muslims were once part of the Tamil separatist campaign, they began to leave the militant groups from the late 80s amid heightening Tamil-Muslim tensions.

In 1990, the LTTE massacred scores of Muslims at three mosques in Sri Lanka’s east and drove away all Muslims from Jaffna when it was in control of the northern peninsula.

“The government urges all citizens to remain calm and unprovoked and support the security forces and police by exercising utmost vigilance as the LTTE, facing imminent annihilation, could very well resort to other similar acts of desperation,” the official statement said.

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