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Two Buses Hit in Latest Deadly Attacks in Sri Lanka

By Steve Herman
New Delhi
06 June 2008

At least 21 people died and more than 50 were wounded when a blast tore through a suburban Colombo commuter bus during the Friday morning rush hour. An explosion on another bus in central Sri Lanka later in the day killed two people and injured 20 others. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from our South Asia bureau in New Delhi.

In the latest in a series of attacks blamed on Tamil rebels, public bus commuters have become the latest victims. Tight security and increased vigilance by citizens in the Colombo area failed to prevent a blast that destroyed a bus packed with office workers, passing through the suburb of Moratuwa.

Army Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara says there is little doubt that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam are responsible.

"Once again, the LTTE have proven they are cruel and barbaric terrorists," he said. "A Claymore mine was hidden on the side of the road and activated, most probably, through a remote control device."

The military spokesman also tells VOA News that an un-detonated Claymore mine was found near the site of Friday morning's bus explosion, preventing a second terrorist attack.

Just under nine hours later, a bus several kilometers outside the ancient capital of Kandy, in central Sri Lanka, was hit by a blast. The defense ministry says a bomb exploded inside the bus as it was passing near a national college of education.

A blast on Wednesday, targeting a passenger train, wounded 18 passengers and bystanders. A similar rail explosion last month near Colombo killed eight people.

Brigadier Nanayakkara says the motive of the Tamil Tigers for carrying out an increasing number of attacks in the capital region, which had been relatively peaceful, is obvious.

"It's clearly striving to disrupt the day-to-day lives and bringing down the morale of the general public in the peaceful Colombo and the suburb area," he said.

The rebels have been fighting for a quarter century to obtain an independent homeland for the minority Tamils.

Violence has escalated since the government withdrew in January from an oft-violated cease-fire accord. The military, since then, has waged a campaign to capture rebel-held territory on the north of the island, vowing to crush the Tamil Tigers by the end of the year.

The Sri Lankan capital is scheduled, at the end of July, to host the annual summit of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation. The gathering will bring numerous heads of government to Colombo. The government is giving assurances that extraordinary security will be in place to ensure the safety of the dignitaries.

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