In Sri Lanka, 12 police officers have been killed and at least 23 wounded in a suicide bombing by suspected Tamil Tiger rebels. As Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi, the latest attack comes amid an escalation in fighting in the island nation, where Tamil Tiger rebels are waging a violent struggle for a Tamil homeland.
Officials say a suspected Tamil Tiger rebel riding on a motorcycle detonated explosives Monday morning during the morning rush hour outside a police station in the northern town of Vavuniya. The town lies about 250 kilometers north of the capital Colombo.
The police constables killed in the blast included women. Many others were wounded. Several school children also sustained injuries in the bombing.
The attack came after two days of heavy fighting between the military and the rebels. The military says they destroyed a rebel base, and killed several rebels in ground
Military spokesman Udaya Nanayakkara says the rebels, also known as the LTTE, are resorting to suicide attacks, because the military is beating them back from their northern strongholds.
"LTTE terrorists, they were getting severely beaten in the battlefront, therefore they are targeting innocent civilians in the other areas," he said. "Large areas have been captured up to now, and important townships have been taken in control of military."
The claims cannot be independently verified, but it is widely believed that the military has an upper hand in the fighting, which escalated earlier this year.
At the same time, rebels have also been accused of staging a series of suicide attacks across the country in recent months. Some of them have targeted trains and buses around
Political observers say the suicide attacks are meant to divert the government's attention and resources. They say the LTTE also wants to create an atmosphere of "instability" in the country ahead of a high profile South Asian regional summit which Colombo is hosting next month.
"If the LTTE can create an impression internationally that there is a lot of instability and widespread violence in the country, it could have an impact on the government's efforts to project an impression that it is in charge of affairs in the country," said Jehan Perera, head of the National Peace Council in Colombo.
The government has vowed to inflict a military defeat by the end of the year on the rebels, who have been fighting for a quarter century for an independent Tamil homeland.