Governing party candidate killed in eastern Sri Lanka

It was the first fatality linked to April 2 snap elections for the 225-seat Parliament, they said.

india Updated: Mar 17, 2004 19:10 IST

Unidentified gunmen raided a hospital at dawn on Monday and killed a candidate in the upcoming parliamentary elections who was being treated for injuries received in an attempt on his life two days earlier, said the police.

It was said that this was the first fatality linked to April 2 snap elections for the 225-seat Parliament.

Sinnathamby Sunderalingam, 63, a candidate from Batticaloa for the United National Front, was killed by two gunmen as he was lying in his hospital bed, said S. Kumara, a police officer. Sunderalingam, a Tamil, narrowly escaped an attempt on his life at his home on Saturday and was being treated at the government-run Batticaloa Base Hospital. Batticaloa is 220 kilometers (135 miles) east of Colombo.

The motive for the murder was not immediately known and there was no claim of responsibility. The killing occurred despite high security ahead of the elections.

Last week, police asked the army, navy and air force to help control rising poll-related violence.

Since nominations were opened on Feb. 17, more than 125 incidents of election-related violence have been reported.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga ordered the election more than three years ahead of schedule amid a bitter power struggle with her political rival, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Kumaratunga and Wickremesinghe were elected separately and head rival parties.

Past elections in this South Asian island nation often have been marred by violence and vote-rigging. More than 60 people died during 2001 polls, which were won by Wickremesinghe's United National Front.

First Published: Mar 11, 2004 13:34 IST