A ball-bearing packed bomb capable of causing devastation was defused at a crowded bus station in northwestern Sri Lanka on Monday, just minutes before it had been set to explode, police said.
The device, equipped with a timer, was discovered in Galgamuwa, 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of the capital Colombo.
"Passengers alerted the police and the bomb was defused just in time," a police official said. "There were ball bearings packed into the bomb and they could have caused a lot of casualties."
It was similar to a device which went off in an overcrowded bus on Friday just outside Colombo, killing 26 people and injuring 63. The attack was blamed by authorities on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Meanwhile, Sri Lankan warplanes Monday bombed a building complex next to a rebel airstrip in guerrilla-held territory in the north, the defence ministry said, inflicted severe damages, but no details of casualties were given.
The air sorties came a day after LTTE separatists flew two light fixed-wing planes which dropped three bombs on two military bases in the island's north-eastern Weli Oya region.
Sunday's pre-dawn air raid by the Tigers using Czech-built Zlin-143 aircraft came despite new anti-aircraft defences put up by the security forces. One soldier was injured in the attacks on sites used as ground troop bases.
Elsewhere, security forces killed seven LTTE combatants in ground battles in the northern district of Vavuniya on Sunday, the ministry said putting military losses at two soldiers dead and four wounded.
The rebels reported only that they killed one soldier during a one-hour confrontation with the army in the northern Vavuniya district on Sunday.
The latest skirmishes pushed total casualty figures to 3,185 Tigers killed by security forces since the start of this year, according to the defence ministry. The military admits losing 232 soldiers over the same period.
Tens of thousands have died since the LTTE launched an armed struggle in 1972 to carve out a separate state for minority Tamils in the island's north and east.