Blast rocks Sri Lanka 's capital, wounding 45
Sat August 30, 2008 07:00 EDT .
BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) A bomb blast blamed on separatist Tamil Tigers wounded 45 people in Sri Lanka - 's capital Saturday, while renewed fighting in the embattled north killed 18 rebels and three soldiers, the military said. Fighting in Sri Lanka - 's civil war has escalated in recent months, with the military capturing a series of rebel bases and large chunks of territory. Officials have reiterated a pledge to crush the guerrillas by the end of the year.
The Tamil Tiger rebels have fought for an independent state in the north and east of the Indian ocean island since 1983, following decades of marginalization of ethnic Tamils by governments dominated by the Sinhalese majority.
More than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict.
Hospital spokesman Dr. Anil Jasinghe said 45 people were receiving treatment for injuries received in the blast.
``Most of them have suffered minor injuries,'' he said, adding that no deaths were reported.
Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan did not answer calls from The Associated Press for comment, but the Tamil Tigers routinely deny responsibility for such attacks.
If carried out by the rebels, the attack would show their ability to strike deep inside government territory despite a maze of security checkpoints around the capital and its suburbs.
Saturday's bombing was the first in the capital since May 16, when a suicide bomb attack blamed on rebels killed 12 people, including eight policemen, and wounded 85 others. On June 6, another bomb hit a crowded passenger bus just outside the capital, killing 21 people.
The rebels, blamed for scores of suicide bombings and other attacks on civilians, are listed as a terrorist group by the United States, the European Union and India.
Meanwhile, fighting continued Friday along the front lines that separate government-held territory and the rebels' de facto state in the north, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.
In the worst battle, soldiers killed eight rebels in two separate clashes in the Kilinochchi district. Two soldiers also were killed, it said.
Other fighting in Vavuniya, Welioya and Jaffna killed 10 guerrillas and one soldier, while eight soldiers were wounded, the statement said.
Both sides routinely exaggerate enemy casualties and underreport their own. Independent verification of the fighting is not possible because most journalists are barred from the war zone.
Amid escalating violence, the government is urging civilians living in rebel-held areas to flee to government-controlled territory, saying it would ensure their safety. Government helicopters dropped leaflets Thursday in rebel-held areas urging villagers to leave.
Published: Sat Aug 30 09:24:45 EDT 2008