By, P.K. Balachandran, IANS
Colombo : At least four people, including a soldier, were killed and over 24 injured when a powerful bomb targeting an army bus exploded in the heart of the Sri Lankan capital Wednesday.
“Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) terrorists have carried out a cowardly bomb attack targeting an army bus carrying sick personnel,” the defence ministry said in a statement.
The bomb had apparently been placed inside the external unit of the air conditioning machine of the Nippon Hotel on Kumaran Rutnam Mawatha in Slave Island, a commercial hub in central Colombo, the ministry said.
The hotel, owned by a family of Indian origin, was featured in the Hollywood movie “The Bridge on the River Kwai”.
The blast site is at a tri-junction from which one road leads to the Sri Lankan Army headquarters, a short distance away.
The bus was badly damaged and 10 soldiers were among the 24 injured.
A civilian bus was also damaged. The blast took place at about 9.30 a.m., just when shops were beginning to open and at the start of the morning rush hour.
Earlier, the army had said that they were not sure if the blast was due to a claymore mine or if a suicide bomber was involved.
The blast was the second terror attack at the capital in the first two days of 2008. On Tuesday, a Tamil member of the Sri Lankan parliament, T. Maheswaran, was shot dead as he was worshiping in a Hindu temple at Kotehena, adjacent to the Colombo harbour.
The alleged assailant was shot and wounded by Maheswaran’s bodyguard and is being questioned by the police in hospital.
Government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella Wednesday said that it was significant that the murder weapon was a kind of micro pistol typically used by the LTTE’s hit squads.
On the charge that the pruning of Maheswaran’s police security detail had facilitated the killing, Rambukwella said that the security provided was based on assessments of the threat to him.
Maheswaran had been advised by security agencies not to stick to a routine but he did not heed the advice, the government spokesman said.