B. Muralidhar Reddy
Pakistan envoy's convoy targeted; 61 schoolchildren die in `air-raid'
COLOMBO: At least seven persons, including four soldiers of the Sri Lanka Army (SLA), were killed in a claymore attack allegedly by the LTTE targeting Pakistan High Commissioner Bashir Wali Mohamad in the heart of the national capital on Monday afternoon.
The envoy, returning from the Pakistan Independence day function at the mission, escaped unhurt though his vehicle suffered minor damage.
His escort Army jeep took the brunt of the attack. The suspected LTTE cadre who triggered the explosion from a parked three-wheeler in the busy area died. The incident, near the temporary Presidential Palace and one-and-half kilometre from the hotel where the Indian cricket team is lodged, has heightened the prevailing insecurity due to the `undeclared war' between the government and the LTTE.
It has cast a shadow on preparations by Colombo for the triangular cricket series and the South Asian Federation (SAF) games scheduled later this week.
In the LTTE-controlled Mullaittivu district at least 61 school children were killed and 150 injured in an alleged aerial attack early in the morning. The Government denied the LTTE charge that the children died in bombing and said there had been no aerial raids in the district.
The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), whose team visited the affected school in Vallipunam on the Paranthan-Mullaithivu road in Mullaittivu, confirmed that students had died in an attack. "Yes there is an incident and our team counted 19 bodies of girls and boys in the premises. We believe the death toll of 61 is accurate. However, we are not in a position to comment on what could have exactly happened", a spokesman of the SLMM told The Hindu .
The UNICEF which runs projects in the district and whose team reportedly visited the school chose to neither confirm nor deny the incident. "We are waiting for information from our field unit. We would get back as soon as we hear," was the answer of the spokesperson here to media queries.
On the claymore explosion here, the Government said it condemned the attempted assassination of the Pakistani High Commissioner to Sri Lanka. It said the High Commissioner narrowly escaped when the explosive-laden three-wheeler was prevented from reaching its target by the military escort vehicle.
"The military vehicle took the full brunt of the explosion and at least seven persons, including four soldiers died in the blast. The LTTE suicide bomber in the three-wheeler too died in the explosion. It is a well-known modus operandi of the LTTE to use suicide bombers to assassinate opponents," the Government said.
It said the Government is concerned about the LTTE's decision to `widen its terror acts to include the perceived regional threats.'