A suspected Tamil Tiger suicide bomber killed Sri Lanka’s highways minister and at least 13 other people attending a marathon race near the capital on Sunday.
TV footage showed a ball of fire roaring towards the minister, Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, as he signalled the start of the race. K.A. Karunarathne, a former top marathon runner and Olympian, and Lashman Alwis, the national athletics coach, were also killed. About 100 people, some of them runners in the race, were wounded. Tamil-speaking Fernandopulle, 55, was a part of the government negotiating team for failed peace talks with the LTTE two years ago.
“The death toll has gone up to 15 including the suicide bomber, 11 bodies were identified and there are parts of bodies from another four people,” said Laksman Hulugalla, director general of the media centre for national security.
Authorities immediately blamed the LTTE. “It’s a suicide attack, definitely by the LTTE,” said a bomb squad official, speaking at the scene on condition of anonymity. The official said the bomb was very close to the minister and contained a large quantity of explosives.
Fernandopulle was the second minister to be killed since January. The minister for nation building, D.M. Dassanayake, died in a roadside blast in the same district, Gampaha.
Sunday’s attack took place in the town of Weliveriya, 30km from Colombo.