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President's brother attacked in Lanka

A suicide bomber targets Sri Lankan Defence Secretary G Rajapaksa.

india Updated: Dec 01, 2006 15:06 IST

A suicide bomber targeted a convoy of vehicles carrying Sri Lanka's defence secretary and other security officials in the capital Friday, wounding at least 14 people, the military and a hospital official said.

Military spokesman Brig Prasad Samarasinghe said the bomber, whose identity was not immediately known, triggered the explosives as the 5-car convoy of vehicles was passing.

Samarasinghe confirmed that Defence Secretary G Rajapaksa, who is the brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, was in one of the cars.

"He is safe, no harm has come to him," Samarasinghe said. Minutes after the blast, Secretary Rajapaksa was seen meeting with President Rajapaksa.

Director of the Colombo National Hospital, Hector Weerasinghe said 14 people -- seven soldiers and seven civilians -- had been admitted.

Soon after the blast, police and other security men opened fire. A body of an unidentified man lay there with gunshot wounds.

A car caught fire as a result of the blast.

The suicide bomber apparently came on a scooter rickshaw from the opposite direction and targeted the convoy, said Deputy Inspector General of Police, Jayantha Wickremeratne.

Rajapaksa was inside a bulletproof car, which was flanked by two motorcycle escorts.

At the blast site, a popular thoroughfare, there was the stench of human flesh and blood strewn all over the area, suggesting some of the wounded may have been badly hurt.

Colombo has been under tight security for several months over fears of possible attacks by the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels.

President Rajapaksa appointed his brother to the post after coming to power last year.

It was under Secretary Rajapaksa that the Sri Lankan Army got new weapons in their fight against the Tamil Tiger rebels.

Suicide bombing is the hallmark of the Tamil Tiger rebels, who say they are fighting to create a separate homeland for Sri Lanka's 3.1 million ethnic Tamil minority.

The Tigers have been fighting for over 20 years, citing decades of discrimination by the majority Sinhalese.

The government says it is willing to give autonomy to areas where Tamils are in the majority, but the rebels insist on sweeping changes that the government says will infringe on the country's sovereignty.

The latest round of peace talks held in Switzerland in October failed to make any progress in resolving the issue and relations between the two sides have since deteriorated.

A sharp spike in violence this year has killed at least 3,500 fighters and civilians, imperiled a 2002 cease-fire and threatened to return the country to all-out war.

The Tiger's top leader earlier this week called the Oslo-brokered ceasefire "defunct," but the rebels later clarified they would abide by the truce.