six killed, 50 injured in Sri Lanka bus blast

dpa German Press Agency
Published: Friday January 5, 2007

Colombo- At least six persons were killed and over 50 injured in an explosion inside a bus close to Sri Lanka's capital on Friday evening, police said. The blast happened at Nittambuwa, 27 kilometres east of Colombo, on the main highway between the capital and central Sri Lanka, police said.

The surrounding area was placed under curfew until Saturday to enable the police investigations and prevent further violence. Police also launched a search operation for those responsible.

Government Defence Ministry spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella immediately blamed the rebels of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for the attack.

"Past records of the LTTE show that they target civilians and there is no doubt that they were responsible for the attack", he said.

A witness speaking from the site said: "The bus caught fire soon after the explosion and the people helped to put down the fire and remove the injured."

The bus was heading from Nittambuwa to Giriulla in the north- western part of the country, carrying mainly civilians belonging to the majority Sinhalese community.

Police said that the bomb was estimated to be around two kilos, programmed to explode soon after the bus left the main bus stand.

The bomb had been placed inside the private bus under a seat. The blast happened when the roads were crowded and most people were returning home after work.

Police closed down the main road to evacuate casualties. At least 10 of the injured were said to be in a critical condition.

The explosion followed the deaths of four policemen in the eastern part of the island and two government officials in north-eastern Sri Lanka.

The four police were killed in a claymore mine blast in the Ampara area, 320 kilometres east Colombo. The two officials were killed in an explosion in Nedunkerny, a rebel-controlled area, 360 kilometres north east of the capital on Friday.

On Tuesday, 15 minority Tamil civilians were killed when the air force bombed suspected rebel targets in the north western Mannar district.

A Roman Catholic bishop in the area said all those killed were civilians, but the government insisted a confirmed rebel target had been hit.

Fighting in northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka has escalated over the 12 months, claiming at least 3,000 lives.

© 2006 dpa German Press Agency