2 separate bomb blasts in Sri Lanka kill 1, wound 11
Fri September 8, 2006 05:36 EDT .
Associated Press Writer
VAVUNIYA, Sri Lanka (AP) _ Two separate bomb blasts in Sri Lanka's embattled north and east on Friday killed one soldier and wounded 11 people, including four school girls, witnesses and the government said.
It wasn't immediately clear who was responsible for Friday's blasts, but suspicion quickly fell on ethnic Tamil rebels who fought a 19-year bloody war with the Sinhalese-dominated government before a 2002 cease-fire.
The conflict _ one of Asia's longest running _ killed about 65,000 people before the truce, which now appears on the verge of collapse after weeks of near-open war along borders separating government and rebel-held territory in the northeast.
Hundreds of combatants and civilians have been killed, and about 220,000 displaced by the shelling and airstrikes that have escalated since April.
Transport has also been restricted across government and rebel lines, and many Tamil-dominated areas in the northeast are running out of food, medicine and fuel.
In northern Vavuniya, a bomb hidden with a dead body in a three-wheeled taxi exploded Friday morning, wounding six people, witnesses and the government said.
The explosion took place near government-held Vavuniya town _ on the edge of territory controlled by Tamil Tigers, who want to carve out a separate homeland for the country's ethnic Tamil minority in the north and east.
Four ethnic Tamil schoolgirls, between the ages of 11 and 14, a policeman and a civilian were wounded, according to officials at Vavuniya hospital where they were taken.
Separately, a parcel bomb left outside a shop in eastern Batticaloa, exploded, killing one soldier, and wounding four civilians and another soldier, the military said. The military blamed Tamil Tigers for the blast.
An Associated Press reporter said the blast in Vavuniya took place as journalists were arguing with police over access to a dead body in the three-wheeler.
The body was identified as S. Somapala, one of two ethnic Sinhalese men abducted from their village near Vavuniya town on Thursday, an official at the government's Media Center for National Security in Colombo said, declining to be named citing policy.
The second man, village guard Lalith Samarasinghe, managed to escape. He told police, in the presence of reporters, that his kidnappers spoke Tamil, and that both he and Somapala were forced to dress in military fatigues before they were shot.
Somapala was killed, but Samarasinghe was only wounded and after a struggle with his kidnappers was able to escape, he said.
Vavuniya, 210 kilometers (130 miles) north of Colombo, is the last government-held town before entering a wide swath of territory under the rebels' control.
Further north is the army-controlled Jaffna peninsula, which has been cut off by the fighting, nearly 2,000 people lined up to board a passenger ship sailing to eastern Trincomalee. The names of only 650 were accepted, the military said.
The ship, expected to sail Friday, would not fly the flag of the International Committee of the Red Cross, as an earlier passenger ferry evacuating foreign nationals did.
An ICRC official did not say why the ICRC was not involved in the evacuation, but Tamil Tigers recently have refused to guarantee the safety of air or sea transport to Jaffna.
Some of those lining up to leave, however, said they were willing to take the risk.
``We have to travel even though there is only a 50 percent hope of a safe passage,'' said Alfred Chandrakumar, an ethnic Tamil, with German citizenship.
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Published: Fri Sep 8 08:36:03 EDT 2006