Sri Lankan president says rebels attacked passenger bus because of battlefield setbacks
Sat April 26, 2008 05:59 EDT .
RAVI NESSMAN - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa said Saturday that a bomb that killed 26 bus passengers showed Tamil separatist rebels were resorting to desperate measures as they faced growing pressure on the battlefield in the north. The rebels have fought since 1983 to create an independent homeland for minority Tamils, who have been marginalized by successive governments controlled by Sri Lanka - 's Sinhalese majority. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the violence.
The Tamil Tigers have been accused of a carrying out a series of bombings and suicide attacks in recent years as the government pushed ahead with its plans to crush the rebels.
The bus attack Friday evening was the first major attack on civilians since a suicide bomber killed 14 people, including a government minister and a former Olympian, at the start of a marathon April 6.
The bomb Friday was hidden in a parcel on the baggage rack of the bus, the military said. It sent pieces of seats hurtling to the street, shattered windows of nearby buildings and nearly ripped the roof off the vehicle.
Ambulances with sirens wailing flooded to a nearby hospital, where off-duty doctors and nurses ran in to help the injured. One hospital was so overwhelmed it stopped accepting more wounded and diverted them to a second medical center.
Saranga Sadara, who was covered in blood from helping the wounded, said he was in a neighboring bus when the bomb exploded. ``The whole place smelled of explosives, and debris was all over,'' he said.
The government blamed the rebels. The rebels, who routinely deny responsibility for such attacks, did not respond to calls for comment.Discuss this story
Published: Sat Apr 26 06:30:20 EDT 2008