10 killed, 85 wounded in Sri Lanka attack

May 16, 2008 7:26:25 AM PDT
A suicide bomber on a motorcycle rammed into a bus carrying riot police in Sri Lanka's capital Friday, killing 10 people, including eight policemen, and wounding 85 others. The blast came hours after air force fighter jets bombed a Tamil Tiger rebel base in the northern jungles, where 27 guerrillas and two government soldiers were killed in heavy fighting Thursday, according to the military.

Military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara, blaming the separatist guerrillas, said a suicide bomber on a motorcycle triggered the blast as he slammed into a bus carrying policemen on a busy Colombo street.

The bomb ripped through the side of the bus, shattering windows and damaging a dozen other vehicles. Located near the president's office and military headquarters, the blast area is considered a high-security zone.

Dr. Anil Jasinghe of the Colombo National Hospital said 10 people died.

"Eight were already dead when they were brought to hospital and two policemen succumbed after admission. About 85 people are being treated now," he said.

The blast was the first suicide attack since a bomber killed 14 people, including a government minister and a former Olympian, at the start of a marathon April 6.

If the attack was carried out by the rebels, it would show they retain the ability to strike deep inside government territory despite a maze of security checkpoints around the capital and military efforts to crush the group.

Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan did not answer calls from The Associated Press seeking comment, but the Tamil Tigers routinely deny responsibility for such attacks. The group, blamed for more than 240 suicide strikes, is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and European Union.

The Tamil Tigers have fought since 1983 to create an independent homeland for ethnic minority Tamils, who have been marginalized by successive governments controlled by the majority Sinhalese. More than 70,000 people have been killed.

It was not possible to independently verify the military's claims because reporters are not allowed in the war zone. The two sides are known to exaggerate their enemies' casualties while underreporting their own.