Sri Lankan police have arrested 52 suspects in connection with Friday’s twin bus bombings that killed 23 passengers and wounded dozens, the military said yesterday.
Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said that 51 suspects were picked up around Moratuwa, the suburb of capital Colombo, where a roadside bomb ripped through a bus, killing 21 passengers.
Another suspect was arrested in the hilly central district of Kandy, where a second blast tore through a bus on Friday, killing two passengers, he said.
TAMIL REBELS BLAMED
Authorities blame ethnic Tamil rebels for the blasts that also wounded 67.
Rebels did not comment on the attacks.
A curfew was imposed in the area to allow security forces to search for suspected rebels and lifted later on Friday.
Sri Lanka’s civil war has intensified recently as government troops try to oust the rebels from territory they hold in the north.
The Tamil Tigers have responded by stepping up bombing attacks.
Fighting continued on Friday between government soldiers and Tamil rebels in the north where the military said it killed 13 rebels. It was not possible to verify the claim because reporters are not allowed in the war zone.
“This could be the start of a worsening cycle of targeting civilians,” said Jehan Perera of the National Peace Council, an independent activist group.
He said the bus attacks were likely “tit-for-tat kind of retaliation,” by the rebels, who accuse the military of killing ethnic minority Tamil civilians with mines and air raids.
“The government must also be careful with its own operations,” he said.
The government denies targeting civilians.
With much of the fighting in Sri Lanka taking place in the north, the recent attacks have shaken the south, home to Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese majority.
Blamed for scores of suicide bombings and other attacks on civilians, the Tamil Tigers are listed as a terrorist group by the US, the EU and India.
They have fought since 1983 to create an independent homeland for Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority. More than 70,000 people have been killed.
A peace process broke down nearly two years ago and fighting has steadily escalated.
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