Mon, Dec 13, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Grenade attack kills two at Sri Lankan concert

NO PARTY Bollywood superstars were rushed to safety after an attack at a sell-out concert that left 19 wounded and two dead, with no suspects as yet


Indian Bollywood stars rushed home after their sell-out "Temp-tation 2004" concert ended in tragedy following a grenade attack that killed two people, officials said yesterday.

Detectives yesterday sealed off Colombo's former Race Course, where Hindi super star Shahrukh Khan entertained more than 20,000 fans, and began looking for clues to find out who was responsible for the attack.

At least 19 people, including several children, were wounded in the Saturday night attack, doctors said.

Top police investigator Sarath Lugoda said they had no suspects yet. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

Khan was on stage when the explosion went off, but security guards whisked him away and drove the entire entourage straight to the airport hours ahead of their planned departure yesterday, organizers said.

The Sunday Times newspaper, one of the co-sponsors of the concert which was billed as Sri Lanka's top musical event of the year, said Khan did not know what had happened.

"Initially, not knowing what had happened, Shahrukh Khan continued until lights were switched off and he was escorted off the stage," the Sunday Times said.

Arriving in Mumbay, Khan told reporters there that he did not believe the attack had anything to do with the protests by Buddhist monks earlier in the day against his show.

"It [the blast] had nothing to do with that," Khan said, referring to protests against the concert because it coincided with the first death anniversary of a popular monk.

Khan started his show by observing a minute silence in honor of the memory of monk Gangodawila Soma who died a year ago.

The monks called off their protest several hours before the show started, but supporters of the monks later attacked cars and concert-goers and clashed with police who retaliated with teargas, water cannons and rubber bullets.

One monk and several others were injured, police said.

Khan's co-star Preity Zinta said in Mumbay that the performers were unaffected by the blast.

"We are all safe, it was very nice to go there," she said.

However, an Indian woman identified as Rithu Shastri, the wife of former Indian cricket idol Ravi Shastri, was wounded and taken to a private hospital, where doctors said they treated her for minor injuries.

A hotel employee and a press photographer were killed instantly in the blast while 18 bystanders, including children, were taken to the emergency room of the Colombo National Hospital.

The blast came despite tight security. Fans were searched at four points before being allowed into the venue which had earlier been inspected by anti-terrorism agents and police sniffer dogs.

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