A Tamil Tiger suicide bomber triggered a blast inside offices of the main opposition party in Sri Lanka yesterday, killing at least 27 people, including a senior retired general, officials said.
The attack in the northern town of Anuradhapura came as the Sri Lankan military appeared on the verge of capturing the Tigers’ key headquarters as part of a major offensive in the drawn-out ethnic conflict.
“The LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] set off a suicide explosion. There are a large number of casualties. At least 27 are dead and 80 injured,” said military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara.
The blast killed the provincial head of the United National Party (UNP), retired army general Janaka Perera, who was attending a ceremony to open the offices when the attack occurred.
Officials said it was likely he had been directly targeted by the blast, which left many of the dead slumped beside overturned blue plastic chairs put out for the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Perera, whose wife was also killed, was a prominent war veteran credited with some of the army’s biggest victories over the Tigers, including a 1996 battle in which 200 rebels were killed with the loss of just one soldier.
The UNP officially supports a negotiated settlement with the Tigers and says the current offensive is being used by the government for political ends.
The UNP said it was not sure who was responsible, but said Perera had been threatened by the LTTE and government allies including a breakaway Tiger faction that became a political party last year and has been accused of rights abuses.
“The government had opened up the opportunities to kill him by not providing security despite repeated requests,” UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake told reporters.
“He was a prominent general who fought against LTTE and is a popular character.”
The UNP’s Ranil Wickremesinghe was prime minister in February 2002 when Colombo and Tiger rebels negotiated their peace deal, brokered by Norway, which finally collapsed earlier this year.
Among those killed yesterday was a female television reporter filming the opening ceremony, said her employer, the privately run Sirasa network.
Anuradhapura is huge tourist draw and home to some of Sri Lankan Buddhism’s holiest sites. For a millennium it was the seat of the kingdom of the Sinhalese, who make up 75 percent of the Indian Ocean island’s 21 million people.
Sri Lanka’s army chief Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka announced at the weekend that his troops were within 2km of the northern rebel headquarters in Kilinochchi.
Losing control of Kilinochchi would be a major blow to the Tigers, who took up arms in 1972, demanding minority rights. In 1976 they raised the stakes, demanding a separate Tamil state.
As the political capital of the LTTE’s northern mini-state, Kilinochchi is where the rebels have hosted visiting foreign dignitaries and peace brokers.
The Tigers, who are known for their trademark suicide attacks, have put up only intermittent resistance to the military forces advancing on several fronts in the north of Sri Lanka.
But defense analysts recently warned that the Tigers still had suicide attackers who could be deployed with devastating effect.
“[The] Tigers could be facing the biggest defeat since 1995, but you can’t ignore their ability to carry out suicide attacks,” one analyst, who declined to be named, said at the weekend.
Foreign aid workers who evacuated the northern region three weeks ago said most residents of Kilinochchi had fled as the fighting moved closer.
Fighting across the northern frontier on Sunday left at least 13 Tigers and two soldiers dead, the defense ministry said yesterday.
Since the Colombo government formally revoked the moribund truce in January, 7,196 Tigers have been killed, according to the military, which places its own losses at 704 soldiers.
The casualty figures cannot be independently verified.
VULNERABLE: Many women do not report sexual harassment by their landlord over fears they could lose the roof over their head, an expert said A growing number of landlords are asking tenants for sex in exchange for housing as COVID-19 lockdowns and job cuts have left many struggling to pay their rent, housing experts said. A survey by the National Fair Housing Alliance of more than 100 fair housing groups combating discrimination across the US found that 13 percent had seen an increase in sexual harassment complaints during the pandemic. “If I did not have sex with him, he was going to put me out,” one woman facing eviction by her property manager told the alliance in an podcast on its Web site. “As a single
‘OBVIOUS DIFFERENCE’: The Wuhan Institute of Virology has been researching bat coronaviruses to trace the SARS pathogen, which is 80 percent similar to SARS-CoV-2 The Chinese virology institute in the city where COVID-19 first emerged has three live strains of bat coronavirus on-site, but none match the new contagion wreaking havoc around the world, its director has said. Scientists think COVID-19 — which first emerged in Wuhan and has killed more than 340,000 people worldwide — originated in bats and could have been transmitted to people via another mammal. However, the director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology told state broadcaster China Global Television Network that claims made by US President Donald Trump and others that the novel coronavirus could have escaped from the facility were
HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES? An institute of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security and a company are to be sanctioned over ‘human rights violations and abuses’ The US Department of Commerce on Friday said that it would sanction a Chinese government institute and eight companies over alleged human rights abuses against Uighurs and other minorities in China’s western Xinjiang region. “These nine parties are complicit in human rights violations and abuses committed in China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, forced labor and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and other members of Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region,” the department said in a statement. The Chinese Ministry of Public Security’s Institute of Forensic Science and Aksu Huafu Textiles Co are to be sanctioned “for
SPACE RACE: The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp mission aims to land a robotic rover and put a probe into orbit around the planet China is targeting a July launch for its ambitious Mars mission, which includes landing a remote-controlled robot on the surface of the Red Planet, the company in charge of the project has said. Beijing has invested billions of dollars in its space program in an effort to catch up with its rival, the US, and affirm its status as a major world power. The Mars mission is among a number of new space projects China is pursuing, including putting Chinese astronauts on the moon and having a space station by 2022. Beijing had been planning the Mars mission for some time this year,