Government Blames Bomb That Killed 41 on Security Lapses
Apr. 14, 1989
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ Most of the 12,000 Sinhalese in Trincomalee took refuge in a navy dockyard Friday, one day after a car bomb in the port city killed 39 Sinhalese shoppers marking the Buddhist New Year, military officials said.
Two Tamils also were killed in the blast from 110 pounds of explosives, which the military blamed on militants from the island nation's Tamil minority.
Deputy Defense Minister Ranjan Wijeratne visited the town Friday and said security lapses by Indian peacekeeping troops and Sri Lankan forces allowed the booby-trapped car to enter the port city 150 miles northeast of Colombo.
Police patrolling the streets reported no new violence but kept a curfew imposed after Thursday's explosion.
Military officials in Colombo said three people died Friday of injuries suffered in the explosion, which killed 36 Sinhalese and two Tamils outright. At least 54 people were injured.
Nalin Seneviratna, head of the northeastern provincial council, said the explosives were hidden under a pile of coconuts in the compact car.
Shortly after it detonated, angry Sinhalese attacked Tamils, stabbing at least four to death, he said. Seven others were injured, said Seneviratna, who is Sinhalese.
The blast destroyed a hotel and flattened three shops.
Police evacuated Trincomalee's Sinhalese residents to the World War II-era dockyard for their safety, Sri Lankan officials said on condition of anonymity.
Tamils account for 60 percent of the town's 35,000 people, while Sinhalese make up 35 percent. There is a small Moslem minority.
Wijeratne said the government has ordered an investigation of the security lapses, which he refused to detail.
Sri Lankan military officials blamed the Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front for the blast, while Indian officials blamed the largest Tamil guerrilla group, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. A spokesman for the Tigers in Colombo denied responsibility.
India became involved in the ethnic troubles of its southern neighbor because sympathies of 60 million politically powerful Tamils in south India lie with the guerrillas.
Indian peacekeeping troops have been deployed in northern and eastern Sri Lanka since July 1987 to disarm Tamil rebels and enforce a peace accord.
At least 12,500 people, mostly Sinhalese, have been killed in the insurrection and a violent backlash from Sinhalese extremists opposed to the accord.
Tamils, who are mostly Hindus, comprise 18 percent of Sri Lanka's 16 million people. Militants among them are fighting for an independent state in northeastern Sri Lanka, where they are a majority.
They claim they are discriminated against by the mostly Buddhist Sinhalese, who make up 75 percent of the population and control the government and military.
Thursday's blast came on the second day of a one-week truce offered by President Ranasinghe Premadasa to Sinhalese and Tamil rebels willing to surrender their arms.