Sri Lanka bus blasts kill at least 23
Fri June 6, 2008 09:45 EDT .
BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Bombs ripped through two buses in Sri Lanka on Friday, including one packed with morning commuters near the country's heavily fortified capital, officials said. At least 23 people were killed and 67 wounded. With much of the fighting taking place hundreds of miles to the north, the recent attacks have shaken the south, home to Sri Lanka's Sinhalese majority, and left residents fearful of more to come.
``I don't know how this war is being fought in the north. I see that only on the television. But, it now seems the war has come to the capital,'' said Roshan Dhammika, a 30-year-old who drives a motorized rickshaw.
Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry said 17 rebels and five soldiers were killed Thursday in fighting surrounding the rebel stronghold in the north. The clashes occurred in Jaffna, Mannar, Vavuniya and Welioya districts, a military official said on condition of anonymity, citing government rules.
This week's attacks appeared to also boost already strong support for the war among people in Colombo.
``What else can you do against a ruthless terrorist group. The LTTE now wants to stop operations in the north as they are suffering defeats. That's why they target civilians,'' said Ganesh Wijenayake, a 45-year-old businessman in Colombo, using a common acronym for the insurgents.
The Tigers, formally known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, have fought since 1983 to create an independent homeland for Sri Lanka's Tamil minority, which has been marginalized by successive governments controlled by the Sinhalese majority. More than 70,000 people have been killed.
Since a long-standing peace process broke down nearly two years ago, fighting between the Tigers and government forces has steadily escalated along the northern front lines and in the east, where the military last year overran rebel-controlled enclaves.
But the rebels still run a de facto state in much of northern Sri Lanka - , and the government says it plans to completely crush the insurgents by the end of the year a threat diplomats and other observers doubt Colombo has the ability to achieve.
Since the start of the year, more than 200 civilians have been killed by bombings in rebel and government territory, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Published: Fri Jun 6 11:00:31 EDT 2008