Military: Police defuse 2 time bombs on passenger buses near the Sri Lankan capital
Sat May 24, 2008 13:16 EDT .
BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Police defused two time bombs hidden on passenger buses Saturday near the Sri Lankan capital, while fighting in the volatile north left seven Tamil separatists and one soldier dead, the military said.
A bus conductor called the police after noticing a suspicious package under a seat on a bus near Ganemulla town, 12 miles (20 kilometers) north of Colombo on Saturday afternoon, said military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara.
A bomb disposal team defused the 2.65 pound (1.2 kilogram) explosive, Nanayakkara said.
Hours later, police defused a second bomb weighing about 6.61 pounds (3 kilograms) that a passenger spotted on a bus near Moratuwa town, about 14 miles (22 kilometers) south of Colombo, he said.
Authorities have asked the public to remain vigilant in the wake of several bombings blamed on the Tamil Tiger rebels, including an attack at a Colombo bus station that killed 26 people last month.
Fighting meanwhile continued in the embattled north.
Scattered battles in Vavuniya and Mannar regions bordering the rebels' de facto state left seven rebels and one soldier dead Friday, Nanaykkara said.
Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan was not available for comment Saturday.
It was not possible to independently verify the military's claims because media are banned from the northern jungles where much of the fighting takes place. Each side commonly exaggerates the other's casualties while playing down its own.
On Friday, the rebels alleged that a roadside bomb attack that killed 16 civilians, including children, deep inside Tamil Tiger territory had been carried out by elite government forces. The military denied involvement, saying government forces did not operate in that area.
In an e-mailed statement, the rebels also said a government airstrike elsewhere in Kilinochchi killed an infant and a teenage girl Friday.
Air force spokesman Wing Commander Janaka Nanayakkara said fighter jets bombed a rebel gathering area and a beach where they concealed their boats, but denied that airstrikes targeted civilian areas.
Fighting has escalated in recent months along the front lines as the government has pledged to capture the rebel-held territory and crush the insurgents by the end of the year. Diplomats and other observers say, however, that the army has faced more resistance than expected.
The rebels have been fighting since 1983 for an independent homeland for minority ethnic Tamils, who have been marginalized for decades by governments dominated by the Sinhalese majority. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the fighting.Discuss this story
Published: Sat May 24 14:12:38 EDT 2008