Bomb blamed on rebels kills Sri Lankan minister, wounds 10 others, military says
Tue January 8, 2008 03:31 EST .
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ A Sri Lankan government minister was killed Tuesday in a roadside bombing blamed on the Tamil Tiger rebels, the first successful assassination of a top Sri Lankan official in 19 months.
The bomb tore through the car carrying Nation Building Minister D.M. Dassanayake as he traveled through the Ja-Ela area, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of the capital, Colombo, said military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara.
Another man who had not yet been identified was also killed in the explosion, said Dharmawardena Guruge, a physician in the hospital where Dassanayake was taken.
``The minister was critically injured and was in a very serious condition even when he was brought here,'' Guruge told an Associated Press photographer.
Guruge said that doctors immediately took Dassanayake in for surgery, but that the minister died.
Dassanayake, who was not a member of the Cabinet, suffered head injuries and wounds ``all over the body,'' the doctor said.
The blast, which came days after the government officially pulled out of a cease-fire with the Tamil Tiger separatist rebels, also wounded 10 others. A security guard and a driver were also in the car, but it was not clear if either was killed or wounded.
``This is a very brutal assassination and we are saddened, we are quite sure that it was done by the terrorists,'' Media Minister Anura Yapa said, referring to the Tamil Tiger rebels.
``The government is doing its best to protect the civilians, their properties and also parliamentarians,'' Yapa said.
He did not say why Dassanayake might have been targeted.
The killing was almost certain to intensify the raging civil war between military forces and rebel fighters in the north.
``We have still not arrested anybody, but the suspicion is on the LTTE,'' Nanayakkara said, referring to the Tamil Tigers by the initials of their formal name, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan did not answer calls seeking comment.
The rebels routinely target government ministers and senior military officials for assassination, but often fail to kill their heavily protected targets.
A suicide bomber killed an aide to Social Services Minister Douglas Devananda in November in a failed assassination that was recorded by security cameras. Bombing attacks in 2006 also failed to kill Army Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka and Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.
The last successful assassination took place in June 2006, when the rebels killed Maj. Gen. Parami Kulatunga, the country's third-highest-ranking military officer.
The rebels have been blamed for an increase in attacks in the Colombo area in recent months. Last Wednesday, suspected rebels set off a bomb near a bus transporting wounded soldiers through the heart of the capital. The blast killed four people _ a soldier and three civilian bystanders.
Soon after, Sri Lanka's Cabinet decided to officially withdraw from a 2002 truce that had all but collapsed over the past two years as escalating violence killed about 5,000 people.
In the four days since the withdrawal, a new wave of violence across the main battle zone in the north killed 85 people, according to the military.
Senior government officials have vowed to dismantle the rebels' de facto state in parts of the north and to crush the Tamil Tigers.
The EU has expressed regret at Sri Lanka's decision to leave the cease-fire, saying it would ``further deteriorate the country's already difficult situation, including the humanitarian and human rights situation.''
According to military figures, 81 rebels and four soldiers were killed since the government pulled out of the cease-fire.
More than 70,000 people have been killed since the rebels began fighting in 1983 for an independent state for Sri Lanka's ethnic Tamil minority, claiming discrimination by the Sinhalese majority.Discuss this story
Published: Tue Jan 8 05:02:10 EST 2008