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Explosion in Colombo, 44 wounded

At least 44 persons, including two children, were injured in an explosion in the crowded Pettah market area, reports Sutirtho Patranobis.

world Updated: Aug 30, 2008 21:40 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

At least 44 persons, including two children, were injured in an explosion in the crowded Pettah market area on Saturday.

The explosion occurred near the Bodirajaramaya Temple on Olcott road in Pettah in the heart of the city at about 12-15 pm.

Military sources said the bomb was kept under a vendor's wares on a sidewalk. Initial reports said that a timer device was attached to the explosive.

The injured were taken to the Colombo National Hospital in private and police vehicles.

The medical superintendent of the hospital Dr Hector Weerasinghe told HT that besides two twelve-year-olds, four women were among the injured.

"In all 44 injured have been brought here. Most of the injuries are on the victims' limbs and lower abdomen," Weerasinghe said. He added that all the injured were civilians.

Following the explosion, the police and the military shut down the market for carrying out detail searches in the area. Pettah, like Delhi's wholesale markets in the Old City, is a crowded maze of markets with narrow streets lined with shops selling from spices to hardware.

The explosion also triggered chaos and a stampede of sorts. Traders, shopkeepers and buyers thronging the market from all over the city and also outside Colombo stumbled and fell while trying to rush out of the street.

Police said the number of casualties would have been much higher if the blast took place on a weekday when the area would have been even more crowded.

On August 22, security forces had seized accessories to make suicide jackets from a church on the same street. Detonators and switches for bombs were recovered.

"We will carry out detailed searches in the area. Combing operations will be carried out not only in churches but the entire area," military spokesperson, Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said.

A release from the Presidential secretariat, quoting military sources, said "there was every indication the explosion was caused by the terrorist LTTE, as part of its campaign of terror to win its separatist demands."

It added that the LTTE was resorting to attacking civilians as a desperate attempt to reverse the setbacks it is facing in the north where the Sri Lankan armed forces have been making steady progress.