Suicide Bomber Kills 7 in Sri Lanka
Feb. 06, 1998
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ A suicide bomber blew herself up in downtown Colombo today within hours of Prince Charles' visit to the Indian Ocean island nation, killing six other people and wounding five.
There was no indication the attack was aimed at Prince Charles, who had used his four-day visit to appeal for an end to Sri Lanka's ethnic violence, condemning an earlier bombing blamed on rebels of the Tamil minority.
Security had been strengthened for the prince's trip, easing after he flew out of Sri Lanka's civilian airport en route to Nepal.
The bomber, who struck six hours after Charles left, detonated explosives concealed in her handbag when she was stopped at a checkpoint 300 yards from the gates of Sri Lanka's air force headquarters, said B.D.M.T. Dissanayake, Colombo's deputy inspector general of police.
The attack killed three air force guards and an army soldier, as well as the woman and her two companions.
``They had probably planned to attack earlier but could not do so,'' given the tight security, Dissanayake said.
Police blamed today's attack on Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the main rebel group fighting for a Tamil homeland. The war has killed more than 50,000 people in the last 15 years.
The same group was blamed for the Jan. 25 bombing at the nation's holiest Buddhist temple, said to contain a tooth of Buddha. That bombing forced the government to shift a celebration of Sri Lanka's 50 years of independence from the temple in the eastern city of Kandy to the more secure parliament complex on Colombo's outskirts.
``It was a brutal and malign act, and one which we all join in condemning,'' Charles said at a banquet given Thursday by President Chandrika Kumaratunga. ``The Temple of the Tooth is part of the world's heritage. It is not just Sri Lankan, nor just Buddhist,''
``The great task of the coming years, the next phase of independence, is to ensure that this ethnic intolerance becomes a thing of the past,'' Charles said.
The prince left the former British colony for Katmandu, planning to head next to Bhutan.