Sri Lankan minister dies in blast near Colombo

By P.K. Balachandran, IANS

Colombo : Sri Lankan minister D.M. Dassanayake and a police officer were killed in a claymore mine blast near Colombo Tuesday, the military said.

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The minister’s motorcade was heading towards Colombo from Negombo when it was struck by a claymore mine at the Rukmani Devi junction at Ja-Ela, about 25 km from the capital, at 10.35 a.m., the military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara told IANS.

“The LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) is responsible for the blast,” the spokesman said.

Dassanayake, who was a deputy minister for national building in the Mahinda Rajapaksa government, and four others had sustained “severe” injuries and were rushed to the intensive care unit of the Ragama Teaching Hospital. But efforts to revive the minister and his police escort officer failed.

Six others had also been admitted to the hospital with less severe injuries, the defence ministry said.

Ja-Ela is on the busy road linking the capital with Sri Lanka’s only international airport 30 km away.

Political circles described Dassanayake as a “soft target”.

The attack followed the killing Sunday of the LTTE’s military intelligence chief, ‘Colonel’ Charles, by Sri Lankan commandos in the northwestern district of Mannar.

The attack on minister Dassanayake was the fourth bomb attack in Colombo and its surroundings in the last month and a half.

There was a suicide bomb attack targeting Tamil cabinet minister Douglas Devananda and a parcel bomb blast at Nugegoda, a southern suburb, in November.

This year, an army bus was blown up in a claymore mine attack in the busy Slave Island area of central Colombo.

On New Year’s Day, T. Maheswaran, a Tamil opposition parliamentarian was shot dead while he was worshiping at a Hindu temple in the capital. For this also, the government blamed the LTTE.