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Human bomb hits army HQ

Eight people were killed and an army commander was critically injured in the blast, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Apr 26, 2006 18:54 IST

The Commander of the Sri Lankan Army, Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka, was critically injured in a suicide bomb attack inside the Army Headquarters complex here on Tuesday.

Eight people were killed and 27 others were injured in the blast, which was set off by a female bomber, military spokesman Brig Tissa Jayawardene said.

The military suspected her to be a member of the LTTE, which is known for suicide bombings.

Briefing newsmen outside the Army Headquarters, Brig.Jayawardene said that the blast took place in front of the Army Hospital located inside the campus, at 1.35 pm.

Gen.Fonseka was going out for lunch when the bomber pounced on his vehicle and set off the blast. Among the dead were his commando guards.

The General was rushed to the Colombo General Hospital, where he was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

He had been hit badly in the stomach, reports quoting doctors said.

His condition was "stable" the military spokesman, Brig Jayawardene said.

Local media reports quoted un-named top hospital officials as saying that the General was "out of danger."

Sources said that the female bomber had entered the high security zone pretending to be a pregnant woman and had thus escaped frisking.

Others said that she had pretended to be a visitor to the hospital inside the army complex. Visitors were apparently allowed during lunch time.

The army headquarters is located in the centre of Colombo in a crowded area beside the Indian-owned Taj Samudra Hotel.

The Army Headquarters area had been cordoned off and information flow was clamped.

This is the first bomb attack in the capital city of Colombo since President Mahinda Rajapaksa took power in late 2005 and the second since the peace process was started in February 2002.

The earlier target, cabinet minister Douglas Devananda, a Tamil, had escaped because the suicide bomber triggered her device on the road outside his office.

Talks off

With this attack, any chances of the peace talks between the government and the LTTE resuming have vanished, political observers say.

The process, already stalled by differences between the government and the LTTE, is unlikely to be resumed in the foreseeable future.

A second round of peace talks were to have begun in Geneva on April 24 in Geneva.

The LTTE had thwarted the talks on the issue of the transportation of its senior cadres from one sector to another for consultations ahead of the peace talks.

The LTTE and the government had also been bitterly complaining about the killing of a large number of people since February.

The LTTE's claymore mines had taken the lives of more than a hundred security forces personnel. Sinhala civilians had also been killed.

The LTTE and the Tamils on the other hand, had also been complaining of the killing of LTTE cadres, their supporters and Tamil civilians, either by the Sri Lankan Army or by its "Tamil paramilitaries".

Political observers say that the government would now step up its campaign to get the European Union to ban the LTTE.