B. Muralidhar Reddy

President Rajapaksa blames LTTE for attacks

COLOMBO: At least 23 civilians were killed and 80 injured in two explosions targeting passenger buses in Sri Lanka on Friday. The latest attacks mark a dramatic rise in violence involving civilians in recent weeks.

The government blamed the LTTE for both blasts, and President Mahinda Rajapaksa said the attacks were aimed at provoking a “backlash against Tamils” and urged people to maintain calm.

In the first blast, a public transport bus at Katubedda, Moratuwa (on the outskirts of Colombo), came under a claymore attack in the morning. Twenty passengers died on the spot and 60 others who were injured were taken to hospitals. The condition of some of them is stated to be critical.

Following the blast, tension gripped the area. As a precautionary measure, the police imposed a curfew and by the evening the situation was believed to be under control.

The second explosion occurred inside a bus in Pollgolla, near Kandy. The explosion killed two civilians and injured 20 people. The police said that the remote-controlled bomb had been planted in the rear of the bus. A suspected LTTE cadre, who allegedly planted the bomb, was apprehended as he was trying to escape, the police added.

Suspects held

Two days ago, the police claimed they apprehended another suspected LTTE cadre who had planted a bomb along the Colomb-Galle railway track, injuring 29 train passengers.

In a statement, President Mahinda Rajapaksa said the explosions showed “the LTTE’s brutality and lack of respect for human life,” and said it once again brought into focus the challenge Sri Lanka faces in dealing with terror in its efforts to safeguard democracy and civilised life.

He appealed to the citizens to remain calm and not give in to provocations aimed at fanning communal hatred and violence. He asked them to assist the police and security forces in the task of eradicating terrorism.