In Sri Lanka, a suicide bombing by suspected Tamil Tiger rebels has killed at least 27 people, including a top former army general. About 80 others were wounded. The latest violence erupted as the army said it is poised to capture the northern town from where the rebels have been leading their campaign for an autonomous Tamil homeland. Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi.
Officials say a suicide bomber triggered a blast Monday morning at the opening ceremony of an office of the main opposition party (United National Party) in the northern town, Anuradhapura.
Retired Major General Janaka Perera and his wife, who were attending the ceremony, were among those killed in the attack. Scores of people were injured.
During the 1990's, the general -- who is regarded as a war hero in Sri Lanka -- won key victories against the rebels. At the time of his death, he headed the provincial unit of the opposition United National Party.
Military spokesman Udaya Nanayakkara blames Tamil Tigers rebels for the attack. He says General Perera was the target of the rebels, also known as the LTTE.
"He was officer who was leading the operations when he was in the service against the LTTE, especially in the north, and LTTE may have targeted him because of that," Nanayakkara said. "LTTE definitely may be targeting these kind of key figures, in order to get some kind of revenge."
The rebels have been accused of using suicide attacks to carry out numerous killings, during their long-running campaign for an autonomous Tamil homeland.
The latest violence erupted as the army said it is within striking distance of capturing the northern headquarters of the rebels, Killinochi.
Military spokesman Nanayakkara says troops are poised just outside the town.
"They are about two kilometers south of Killinochi, the foremost troops operating in that area….we will be moving into town no sooner (as soon as) we get the chance," Nanayakkara said.
Killinochi is a major target of the government offensive to crush the rebels. It is symbolically important because it serves as the administrative headquarters of the Tamil Tigers.
The government says it is confident of defeating the rebels in the north. Earlier this year, it drove them out of their eastern bases. Military observers say evicting the rebels from their bases will only drive them into jungle hideouts, where they will mount a guerrilla campaign.
Sri Lanka's bloody civil war began a quarter century ago, and has claimed 70,000 lives.