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Minister dies as Sri Lanka is rocked by bomb attacks

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Roadside bomb attack kills Nation Building Minister D.M. Dassanayake
  • Explosions occur near Colombo while minister's convoy was on way to parliament
  • Five others in the minister's convoy were injured, police blame Tamil rebels
  • NEW: Hours later, two injured in bomb attack detonated in phone booth

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From Journalist Iqbal Athas
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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (CNN) -- Hours after a roadside bomb killed a Sri Lankan minister, another explosion ripped through the capital Tuesday evening, injuring two bystanders.

An explosive device was apparently planted inside a telephone booth in Colombo's Fort area, part of a heavily guarded high security zone near Sri Lanka's Air Force headquarters, police and military officials said.

It detonated just outside the offices of the Lake House Group, a state-owned newspaper conglomerate.

Earlier in the day, a roadside bomb struck a convoy carrying D.M. Dassanayake, a non-cabinet minister for nation building, killing him and injuring five others, according to police.

Dassanayake died at a hospital following the explosion in Ja-ela, a suburb between the capital Colombo and the island's international airport.

Police said Tamil rebels were behind the attack. If so, the assault is the latest salvo in the intensifying violence between the two sides since the government announced last week that it was walking away from a nearly six-year long truce.

The government claims it has killed at least 60 rebels in the last six days. The numbers are difficult to verify because both sides tend to exaggerate the casualty count. The government also does not allow media access to the areas where they are fighting the rebels unless it is on guided tours.

Sri Lanka's decision to pull out of an internationally brokered peace agreement goes into effect January 16. By the agreement's terms, each side was required to give two weeks' notice if either planned on withdrawing.

Even before the announcement, the cease-fire -- brokered by Norway in 2002 -- had existed in name only because the two sides had resumed fighting two years ago.

Sri Lanka's armed forces commanders declared on New Year's Eve that they would crush the rebels this year. They claimed that the rebels had violated the agreement repeatedly, rendering it "non-functioning."

The two sides have engaged in a brutal civil war since 1983. The rebels, formally called the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, want an independent homeland for the Tamil minority in the north and east of the island-nation, located south of India. They cite decades of discrimination by the majority Sinhalese.

About 65,000 people died before the two sides reached the 2002 truce. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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