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22 Die, 30 Wounded In Bus Explosion

May 1, 1988

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ Tamil rebels detonated buried explosives beneath a passenger bus crowded with shoppers Sunday, killing 22 people and wounding 30 others in northeastern Sri Lanka, a military official said.

The death toll initially was given as 15, but officials raised the figure when rescue workers found more mutilated bodies aboard the burned-out bus.

Fifteen of the 30 others were injured critically.

It occurred at the village of Sittaru, 25 miles southwest of the eastern port of Trincomalee.

The military official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, said ″seven bodies are badly mutilated and are beyond recognition.″

The victims were airlifted by Sri Lankan air force helicopters to government hospitals in Anuradhapura to the east of Trincomalee, the official said.

He estimated that there were at least 75 villagers on the bus when the blast occurred.

Major Jayantha Jayasinghe, contacted by telephone in Trincomalee, said Sri Lankan troops were being rushed to the area. Trincomalee is about 150 miles northeast of Colombo.

Major Jayasinghe said the victims were from the majority Buddhist Sinhalese and minority Moslem communities.

Both military officials blamed the Tamil Tigers for the explosion, the second bus attack in two days.

Six soldiers and five civilians were killed Saturday when Tamil rebels ambushed a bus in the town of Vavuniya, 135 miles northeast of Colombo.

The rebels are fighting a nearly 5-year-old insurgency to create a separate Tamil homeland.

Tamils comprise about 18 percent of Sri Lanka’s 16 million population. Most Tamils are Hindus and they say they are discriminated against by the Buddhist Sinhalese majority.

Sri Lanka and India signed a peace accord in July that allowed some Tamil self-rule in the north and east of the island nation, but the Tamil Tigers rejected the pact and refused to lay down their weapons.

More than 50,000 Indian troops are in Sri Lanka now to enforce the accord.

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