Blast kills 15 as Sri Lanka ceasefire formally ends

By P.K. Balachandran, IANS

Colombo : At least 15 people were killed and 50 others injured Wednesday when a blast ripped through a bus carrying civilians, including schoolchildren, in Sri Lanka’s southern Monaragala district, reports said.

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The blast took place as the six-year-old ceasefire agreement (CFA) between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) officially ended.

“LTTE terrorists have exploded a bomb targeting a public transport bus that was plying from Buttala to Okkampitiya in Monaragala district. According to available information, the bus was transporting a large number of civilians including schoolchildren,” the defence ministry said.

At least 50 people were injured in the blast that took place at 7.45 a.m. close to the third mile post near Okkampitiya, the ministry added.

But other local reports, quoting military officials, said that at least 15 people were killed and 30 of the injured were in a critical condition in Moneragala and Buttala hospitals.

“We do not know if it was a claymore mine or a parcel bomb,” military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara told IANS.

Meanwhile, the ceasefire agreement between the government and the Tamil Tigers formally ended Wednesday morning after six turbulent years, which, ironically, saw more war than peace.

Eight rounds of talks were held between the two parties, all proving fruitless. An undeclared full-scale war, which began in mid 2006 and is still on, has claimed more than 4,500 lives and displaced more than 300,000 people.

The war has been on despite appeals from the international community to both the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lanka government to cease hostilities and begin negotiations.