A Sri Lankan minister, seriously injured with 45 other people in a suspected Tamil Tigers suicide bombing in the island's southern province, is recovering in the intensive care unit (ICU) of the Colombo National Hospital, medical officials said on Wednesday.
Postal Services Minister Mahinda Wijesekera (66), a long-standing politician representing the Matara constituency in parliament, suffered head injuries when a suicide bomber blew himself up Tuesday, targeting a procession celebrating Eid-e-Milad (Prophet Mohammed's birthday) in the southern town of Akuressa in the Matara district.
At least 14 people were killed and 46 others, including the minister, were wounded in the blast. This is the first suicide attack in Matara, the southernmost region and populated overwhelmingly by the majority Sinhala community.
The minister was later airlifted to Colombo National Hospital where he underwent an emergency surgery.
"He is still in the intensive care unit (ICU), but his condition is getting better. His condition is certainly a lot better than yesterday (Tuesday) after the surgery," director of the Colombo National Hospital accident service, Hector Weerasinghe told IANS Wednesday.
The defence ministry said Wednesday that the suicide bomber "had arrived at the place on a push-bike and exploded himself among the Islamic devotees going to the mosque in a procession".
"Among the deceased and injured were several local government representatives," the defence ministry said.
Tuesday's suicide attack came as the military was in the final phase of recapturing the last strongholds of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which has now been boxed into a land stretch of less than 40 square km in the north-eastern Mullaitivu district.
Vehemently condemning the attack, Sri Lanka said the bombing would only "strengthen our resolve to end terrorism" in the island nation.
"This is another desperate act that the LTTE terrorists, now on their last legs, have perpetrated to divert the attention from the humanitarian mission of the security forces," the government said in a statement Tuesday.