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Sri Lanka Suicide Bomber Kills 5 - 2004-07-07


In Sri Lanka, at least five people have been killed and 11 wounded by a suspected suicide bomber. It is the first such attack since the government and the Tamil Tiger rebels entered a cease-fire more than two years ago.

Officials say a woman set off explosives as she was about to be searched at a police station in a high-security zone in Colombo. She was brought in for questioning after security guards prevented her from entering a Tamil minister's office.

Several policemen and the woman were killed in the powerful blast.

Police officials say the Tamil minister, Douglas Devananda could have been the intended target; he is a staunch opponent of the Tamil rebels.

The apparent suicide bombing occurred in an area that houses the prime minister's official residence and is close to the U.S. and British diplomatic missions.

Suspicion has fallen on the Tamil Tigers, who have staged many high profile suicide attacks in Colombo during their 20-year struggle for a separate Tamil homeland in the northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka.

The city has been calm since the government and the rebels signed a cease-fire in February 2002, but tensions and violence have mounted in the east of the country following the killing of several Tamil Tiger cadres, apparently by supporters of a renegade commander.

The Tigers accuse the military of sheltering and supporting the breakaway leader in a bid to undermine their movement, the government denies the charges.

The Director of Colombo's Center for Policy Alternatives, Paikiasothy Saravanmuttu says the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or the LTTE wanted to send a strong message to the government.

"Perhaps this is an attempt to show that you can't hit the LTTE without being hit back at, and that they are not going to take these things lying down," he said.

In a recent statement on their website, the Tamil Tigers accused the military of jeopardizing the cease-fire, saying, "If war is thrust on us, we are prepared to respond."

The attack comes two days after the rebels held a ceremony to honor suicide fighters who died in the 20-year civil war. The last suicide rebel attack in Colombo was in 2001, when they attacked the country's only international airport. Several high profile political leaders have also been targets of Tamil Tiger suicide bombers.

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