10 die as suicide bomber targets Islamic gathering


Colombo : At least 10 people were killed and 35, including a minister, were seriously wounded Tuesday as a suspected Tamil Tiger suicide bomber targeted a procession celebrating Prophet Mohammed’s birth, the defence ministry said.

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It said the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) bomber exploded himself around 10.30 a.m. near Jumma mosque at Godapitiya area in the town of Akurassa in Matara district, 160 km south of Colombo.

“The LTTE terrorist has targeted the Islam devotees attending the Milad-un-Nabi celebration at the mosque. Ten civilians were killed and at least 35 others, including a minister, were injured,” the ministry said.

Television channels showed video footage of bloodied and frightened people running in different directions as the explosion ripped through the procession led by several ministers.

The Milad-un-Nabi, the birthday of the prophet, is celebrated as a national festival in Sri Lanka. Muslims are the third largest community in Sri Lanka after the mainly Buddhist Sinhalese and largely Hindu Tamils.

An official attached to the president’s office said a team of doctors had been flown to Matara to treat the wounded minister, Mahinda Wijesekara.

“Arrangements have been made to airlift the minister to Colombo,” the official said.

The attack came as government troops were in the final phase of recapturing the last rebel controlled area in the north-eastern part of Sri Lanka.