COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ A female suicide bomber disguised to look pregnant blew herself up in front of a car carrying Sri Lanka's highest-ranking general, killing eight people and badly injuring the top officer.

Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka suffered serious abdominal injuries, underwent surgery and was in stable condition after the brazen attack on the army's heavily fortified headquarters, military and medical officials said.

The army general's driver and escort and 27 people, including a number of civilians, were wounded, spokesman Brig. Prasad Samarasinghe said. It was not clear if any other top Sri Lankan military officials were hurt, or if the eight killed included the bomber.

Police blamed Tamil Tiger insurgents, who often have used women to carry out suicide attacks in their long fight for a separate homeland.

``A powerful blast activated by a woman Tamil Tiger suicide bomber claimed the lives of several army and civil personnel,'' the army said in a statement.

The bombing was certain to put further pressure on the country's 4-year-old cease-fire, which has been threatened by rising violence that has killed at least 83 people this month, including 43 soldiers or police.

Top Sri Lankan military officials work in the headquarters complex, which is protected by fences and troops guarding all entrances. The victims included civilians visiting relatives at the complex in the capital, Colombo, Samarasinghe said.

S.A. Weerasinghe, who works at a barbershop inside the compound, said he saw a fireball as he came out of the shop.

The attacker, killed instantly, entered the grounds using fake identification and claiming to have a prenatal appointment at the army's hospital, the military officials said. She was wearing explosives that made her appear pregnant, the officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak with the media.

Fonseka, a battle-hardened soldier with 35 years in the infantry, was appointed to the service's highest post after President Mahinda Rajapakse took office in November.

The rebels accuse the Sinhalese-dominated government of discrimination against the minority Tamils. A Norwegian-brokered cease-fire halted full-scale fighting in 2002 but clashes have continued.

The rebels are known for their deadly suicide cadres. Their first suicide attack came on July, 1987, when a rebel drove a truckload of explosives into a military camp, killing 40 soldiers.

Since then, 240 other rebels have blown themselves up in attacks that have killed Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa, former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and dozens of others.

In other violence, suspected rebels in a hijacked bus opened fire late Monday on soldiers when their vehicle was blocked at a checkpoint in northern Sri Lanka, drawing return fire that killed the driver, the military said.

The passengers on the bus _ believed to be three or four Tamil Tiger rebels _ escaped following the brief gunbattle in Jaffna, Samarasinghe said.

Last week, the rebels backed out of peace talks scheduled to start Monday in Geneva, citing attacks on ethnic Tamil civilians and other disputes with the government.