Thu, Jul 08, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Truce may be over as suicide bomber strikes in Colombo

AFP , COLOMBO

A suspected suicide bomber killed herself and at least four others yesterday in a high-security zone of Colombo in the first such attack in the Sri Lankan capital since Tamil rebels joined a truce in 2002, officials said.

The woman was being escorted to a police station opposite the US and British diplomatic missions when she detonated explosives she was carrying, a military official told AFP.

The woman and four policemen were killed and another 12 people were wounded, the official said.

The attack bore the trademarks of the Tamil Tigers, who on Monday marked the 17th anniversary of their first suicide bombing in their campaign to establish a separate homeland for the island's Tamil minority.

Police said the woman was stopped yesterday for a routine check and questioning in the high-security zone in which Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse has his main office.

Police sources speculated that a Tamil minister in the government, Douglas Devananda, may have been the intended target of the attack.

The last suicide bombing in Colombo was in October 2001 when a Tiger detonated explosives strapped to his body as he was being questioned by police guarding then prime minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake in Colombo.

A policeman and a civilian were killed and 16 others were wounded in that attack.

Government forces and the Tamil Tigers entered a Norwegian-brokered ceasefire in February 2002, but peace talks have been stalled since April last year despite a series of visits by envoys from Oslo aimed at jumpstarting the process.

The Tigers on Tuesday accused government forces of preparing for war in the island's volatile east after the killing of a rebel political activist.

The three-decade ethnic conflict has claimed more than 60,000 lives.

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