The Web Sri Lanka In Focus

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Australia upgrades travel warning for Sri Lanka

Following the deadly bomb blast in Dambulla yesterday, Australia has upgraded its travel warning for some parts of Sri Lanka, advising tourists to avoid the region known as the Cultural Triangle.

It also asked its nationals to reconsider their travel plans to all other parts of Sri Lanka. Australia said tensions between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE rebels are high, and there has been a significant escalation in the number of violent attacks across the country.

Eighteen people were killed in the region yesterday when a bomb exploded on a civilian bus at Dambulla.

Source: Colombopost

Suicide bombing kills 11 at Sri Lanka train station

A suicide bomber attacked a train at Colombo's main rail station Sunday, killing at least 11 and injuring more than 100 others on the eve of Sri Lanka's independence day celebrations, officials said.

The blast near a suburban train as it arrived at the Fort terminal came just hours after six people were hurt in a hand grenade attack at Sri Lanka's main zoo on the outskirts of Colombo, prompting authorities to boost security.

A police spokesman said the train attack had been carried out by a suspected female operative of the Tamil Tigers, the rebel group fighting to carve out a separate homeland in the ethnic Sinhalese-majority island nation.

"The bombing has all the hallmarks of the Tigers," a police officer at the scene said. "The head of the woman suicide bomber was found on a platform."

The officer said initial reports indicated that the woman had blown herself up aboard the train, but forensic experts later determined that she had carried out the attack on the platform as passengers were exiting the train.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but defence officials also said they believed it to be the work of the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The United States, one of Sri Lanka's main financial backers, condemned the spate of bombings and asked all sides in the decades-old conflict to ensure the safety of civilians.

"Only a political solution to the country's conflict that responds to the aspirations of Sri Lanka's Tamil and other communities offers a way out of the current cycle of escalating violence," the US embassy here said in a statement.

A spokeswoman at Colombo National Hospital, Pushpa Soysa, said seven people were dead on arrival and four others later succumbed to their injuries. Among the dead were two young girls aged 12 and 13.

A total of 102 others were still receiving treatment, Soysa said. There were no foreigners among the casualties, hospital sources said.

Earlier, the grenade blast at the aviary of the Dehiwala zoo caused panic among visitors, but police moved in reinforcements and urged calm. The zoo was shut indefinitely for visitors, officials said.

There also was no claim of responsibility for the zoo attack.

The two explosions came a day after a powerful bomb ripped through a bus in the north-central town of Dambulla, killing 20 passengers and wounding 68.

Sri Lankan police and security forces have been on high alert ahead of Monday's celebrations to mark the country's 60th anniversary of independence from Britain.

President Mahinda Rajapakse condemned the bus bombing and urged Sri Lankans not to be provoked by what he called a "savage attack" by the Tamil Tigers.

The string of three attacks in two days came amid fresh fighting between government forces and Tamil rebels across the embattled north at the weekend that left dozens dead, according to the defence ministry.

Troops backed by heavy artillery fire killed at least 44 suspected rebels on Saturday, while only two soldiers were killed, the ministry said in a statement.

Casualty claims from both sides cannot be independently verified.

Since the beginning of this year, at least 908 rebels and 36 soldiers have been killed in heavy fighting, according to defence ministry figures. At least 137 civilians have also died during the same period, according to both sides.

The government in January pulled out of a tattered truce with the rebels, who have been fighting for a separate Tamil homeland since 1972 in a conflict that has left tens of thousands dead.

Source: AFP

Update: 12 dead