A suicide bomber on a motorcycle rammed into a bus carrying riot police in Sri Lanka’s capital yesterday, killing nine people, including seven policemen, and wounding 85 others.
The blast came hours after air force fighter jets bombed a Tamil Tiger rebel base in the northern jungles, where 27 guerrillas and two government soldiers were killed in heavy fighting on Thursday.
Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara, blaming the separatist guerrillas, said a suicide bomber on a motorcycle triggered the blast as he rammed a bus carrying policemen on a busy Colombo street.
The bomb ripped through the side of the bus, shattering windows and damaging a dozen other vehicles. Located near the president’s office and military headquarters, the blast area is considered a high-security zone.
Anil Jasinghe of the Colombo National Hospital said that nine people died.
“Eight were already dead when they were brought to hospital and one policemen succumbed after admission. About 85 people are being treated now,” he said.
The blast was the first suicide attack since a bomber killed 14 people, including a government minister and a former Olympian, at the start of a marathon on April 6.
If the attack was carried out by the rebels, it would show they retain the ability to strike deep inside government territory despite a maze of security checkpoints around the capital and military efforts to crush the group.
Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan did not answer calls seeking comment, but the Tamil Tigers routinely deny responsibility for such attacks. The group, blamed for more than 240 suicide strikes, is listed as a terrorist organization by the US and EU.
Early yesterday, air force planes bombed a base of the Sea Tigers, the rebels’ naval wing, in their de facto state in the north, air force spokesman Wing Commander Andy Wijesuriya said.
Another airstrike on a rebel military base in the guerrilla stronghold of Mullaitivu took place overnight, he said.
Wijesuriya did not give details of casualties or damage, but said “pilots have confirmed they hit the target accurately.”
Infantry clashes on Thursday in the Vavuniya, Mannar and Jaffna regions, bordering the rebels’ turf, killed 27 rebels and two government soldiers, the military said.