Sri Lanka's president vowed yesterday to crush Tamil Tiger rebels after a rush-hour train bombing blamed on the insurgents killed eight passengers and wounded 70 others.
“I will not stop till terrorism is defeated,” Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa told a meeting with media officials, according to a statement from his office.
“No one should have expectations that there will be a letup in the battle against terrorism because of the frenzied attacks” by the rebels, the statement quoted Rajapaksa as saying.
The bomb blast took place inside a train during Monday evening’s rush hour. The train was preparing to leave a station in Dehiwala, just south of Colombo, when the blast tore through it.
Rajapaksa said the rebels had resorted to targeting civilians to divert the government’s attention from its successful operations against them in the north.
Meanwhile, the military said air force helicopters bombed and destroyed a rebel explosives storage depot in northern Sri Lanka on Monday, killing a guerrilla bomb-making expert.
The air force targeted the explosives stash in Mannar district’s Andankulam village, a military official said on condition of anonymity, citing government rules.
The official also said separate ground clashes on Monday killed 20 rebels on the northern front lines in the Mannar, Vavuniya and Welioya areas.
Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan could not be reached for comment. It was not possible to get independent confirmation of the military’s claims because reporters are not allowed in the war zone. Each side routinely exaggerates damage inflicted on its enemy and underreports its own losses.
Government forces and the separatist Tamil Tigers have engaged in violent clashes for the past several months around the guerrillas’ northern stronghold.
Scores of civilians have also been killed in bus and train bombings, most of which the government has blamed on the Tigers. The rebels have denied involvement in some attacks, but have not commented on many others.
The Tamil Tigers have fought since 1983 to create an independent homeland for minority ethnic Tamils, who have faced decades of discrimination at the hands of successive governments controlled by majority Sinhalese.