A suicide bomber triggered explosives amid a gathering of Muslims celebrating Milad-un-Nabi, killing 14 and wounding 40 more including a minister in the southern Sri Lankan town of Akuressa on Tuesday.
The condition of several among the injured, including that of minister Mahinda Wijesekera, was said to be serious.
Wijesekera was flown to a hospital in Colombo from Akuressa, some 150-odd km from the capital. The death toll is expected to rise.
The LTTE did not claim responsibility but the suicide attack bore all the trademarks of one carried out by the Tamil Tigers, now cornered in a sliver of land in the north-eastern district of Mullaitivu.
The apparent target of the blast was six senior ministers of the government who were at the famous Jumma mosque at Akuressa in Matara district to attend the celebrations associated with the Prophet’s birthday. Besides Wijesekera, the remaining five ministers escaped unhurt. The explosion occurred at 10:30 am outside the mosque.
“There were many, many people around. Many had come from the nearby villages. We were walking towards a stage near the mosque when there was a huge blast. Then a severed head came rolling in front me,’’ said Ameer Ali Sihabdin, minister for disaster relief.
Oil Minister AHM Fowzie told AP: “A suicide bomber tried to kill us, but we escaped.”
“This reminds us of the LTTE’s massacre of more than 200 Muslims at worship in three Mosques at Kaththankudy and Eravur in the East, in August 1990, in its war of terrorism,’’ the government said in a statement.