A suicide bomber crashed a truck full of explosives into a convoy of buses carrying unarmed navy personnel going on leave in Sri Lanka Oct. 16, killing at least 94 and wounding 150. The explosion, at Habarana about 100 miles northeast of the capital, was one of the deadliest attacks since a 2002 cease-fire between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The government blamed the LTTE for the attack, a charge the group neither confirmed nor denied. The vast majority of the casualties were sailors, but a military spokesman said some civilians were caught in the explosion.
“This is a barbaric terrorist act,” said Keheliya Rambukwella, the military spokesman. “It clearly shows that peace is not on the agenda of the LTTE and they don’t care about international opinion.” But he said the government still planned to attend peace talks with the guerillas, which are being brokered by Norway and are to resume Oct. 28 in Geneva after an eight-month hiatus. More than 2,000 people, half of them civilians, have been killed in fighting since April, according to the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission. (NYT, Oct. 16)
Tamil news sources report casualties in retliatory raids by the Sri Lankan Air Force against villages believed to support the LTTE. TamilNet reports that a one-year-old baby and a 12-year-old girl were killed and 15 civilians wounded in a raid on the village of Kaiveli, in Mullaithivu district. Homes were also destroyed and several civilians injured in other raids in the region. TamilNet notes this is but the lastest in an escalating wave of aerial attacks in the region this year. It claims 51 school girls and 4 staffers were killed in Vallipunam in Mullaithivu district on Aug. 14. (TamilNet, Oct. 16)
In another move that bodes poorly for peace, on the same day as the bombing Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court overturned a 1987 order by then-President J. R. Jayewardene that the country’s Northern and Eastern provinces should be merged, a move aimed at giving the Tamils greater regional autonomy. The ruling came as a result of a petition filed by the People’s Liberation Front (JVP). The chief justice found the merger had been illegally ordered without the approval of parliament. The merger was the result of an India-Sri Lanka agreement which was then presented as a solution to the separatist conflict. (Xinhua, Oct. 17)
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