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Female Suicide Bomber Targets Sri Lanka's Army Chief 


In Sri Lanka, a suicide bomb attack has critically injured the country's army chief and killed at least eight other people. More than 10 people were wounded in the blast. The bombing is a major setback to a four-year peace process that was already under strain.

Officials say a woman exploded a powerful bomb in front of a vehicle carrying military commander Sarath Fonseka into the heavily-guarded army headquarters in Colombo. The other people killed or wounded include members of the general's security detail and civilians.

Police say the bomber was disguised as a pregnant woman. She died on the spot. The general, who sustained serious injuries, has undergone emergency surgery.

The army accused the separatist Tamil Tiger movement of carrying out Tuesday's attack - the deadliest suicide bombing blamed on the rebels since they began a peace process with the government four years ago.

Ketesh Loganathan, the deputy head of the government department dealing with the peace process, says the bombing is a major setback to efforts to end the country's three-decade long ethnic conflict.

"Given the target in today's suicide attack, the army commander, many are tempted to say that this is actually an act of war," he said.

The Tamil Tigers have been blamed for scores of suicide attacks in the past, including one that killed the country's president in 1993. They were also accused of assassinating the country's foreign minister last year.

The latest bombing follows a wave of violence in the Tamil-dominated north and the east this month. At least 70 people, including soldiers and civilians have been killed in landmine attacks and ethnic riots. The Tamil Tigers have been blamed for the attacks targeting the military, while the rebels accuse paramilitaries supported by the government of killing their supporters.

Last week, the Tamil Tigers indefinitely postponed peace talks to be held this week after accusing the government of creating a "war-like" situation.

Loganathan says the government is committed to the four-year truce, but the rising violence could jeopardize the peace process.

"There is no question of the government going back to war. But at the same time, continuing actions of this nature will bring the ceasefire agreement under extreme strain," added Loganathan.

The 2002 truce had raised hopes of ending the country's ethnic conflict, which was triggered by rebel demands for an autonomous homeland for the minority Tamil community. But peace talks have made little progress in the last three years, and the rebels have warned they could return to war if their demands remain unfulfilled.