Rebel Suicide-Bomber Kills 21, Injures Minister
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ A Tamil rebel suicide-bomber with explosives strapped to her body threw herself in front of a government motorcade today, killing at least 21 other people, the military said.
At least 50 people, including a government minister, were injured in the midday attack in Jaffna City, once a rebel stronghold, said military spokesman Brig. Sarath Munasinghe.
Housing Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva was slightly wounded when the bomber leaped out of a crowd of onlookers toward his motorcade, Munasinghe said.
The bomber missed the minister’s vehicle, but hit a jeep behind him and killed one of the passengers, Brig. Ananda Hammangoda. Also killed were the chairman of the state’s Building Materials Corp., two police constables, a retired police superintendent working for the minister and several soldiers,
Military officials first said the rebel attacker was riding a motorcycle, but later said that she had been among the crowd. The area was littered with body parts and soldiers found the head of woman they believe was the bomber.
The minister, who is in charge of rebuilding the war-shattered peninsula, had just opened an office in Jaffna.
The attack in Jaffna, the rebel stronghold that the military captured in December, came as the military claimed it had established full control of the northern peninsula two months ago. The military said it had driven the rebels across a lagoon, into the mainland’s northern jungle towns. More than 80 percent of the peninsula’s 550,000 Tamil civilians who fled to avoid fighting have returned.
The rebels, all of whom wear cyanide vials around their necks that they swallow if about to be captured, frequently use suicide-bombers.
Politicians assassinated in this way include former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in the neighboring Indian state of Tamil Nadu in 1991, Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa two years later, and several top Sri Lankan ministers and military officers.
In January a rebel suicide-bomber crashed a truck packed with explosives into the Central Bank, reducing the capital’s business district to rubble, killing 88 people and wounding 1,400.