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Suicide blast in Sri Lanka as rebel stronghold falls

  • Story Highlights
  • Suicide bomber strikes in Colombo, killing three people, wounding 30
  • President Mahinda Rajapaksa calls on rebels to lay down arms
  • Loss of Kilinochchi is latest in a series of blows for the Tamil Tigers
  • Until recently Kilinochchi was the Tigers' capital
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From Iqbal Athas
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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (CNN) -- A suicide bomber on a motorcycle blew himself up outside air force headquarters Friday in Colombo, killing two air force police officers and a member of the bomb-disposal unit, authorities said.

Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa has called on the Tamil Tigers to stop fighting.

Police and army officials at the site of the suicide bombing in Sri Lanka's capital Colombo.

The bombing occurred about one hour after President Mahinda Rajapaksa urged the Tamil Tigers to lay down their arms and end a quarter-century of civil war. Before he made that request, government troops retook the separatists' former capital, Kilinochchi.

The bombing wounded 30 people, three of them critically, authorities said. Initial reports indicate the bomber triggered explosives strapped to his chest when air force personnel tried to stop him for a search.

In a televised statement Friday evening, Rajapaksa called the recapture of Kilinochchi "a victory against separatism."

"The time is not far off when people of the north can breathe freedom again," Rajapaksa said.

He invited the Tigers -- who have fought for an independent homeland for Sri Lanka's ethnic Tamil minority since 1983 -- to surrender as government troops closed in on their last remaining strongholds.

Rajapaksa's announcement was met with fireworks in Colombo, and Friday's news prompted celebrations in other cities as well.

The Tamil Tigers ran a parallel administration from Kilinochchi with their own police force, courts, prisons and taxes, and they had declared government plans to retake the city a "daydream." But after Sri Lanka launched a new offensive against the rebels in the fall, the insurgents moved their nerve center and logistics bases to Mullaitivu, on the northeastern coast.

There was no immediate response from the group to Friday's news.

Sri Lankan troops have been on the outskirts of Kilinochchi, about 580 km (360 miles) north of Colombo, for more than a month. They took a key highway junction and a town outside the city Thursday.

The civil war has left more than 65,000 people dead. The U.S. State Department has designated the Tamil Tigers a terrorist organization.

All About Sri LankaLiberation Tigers of Tamil EelamKilinochchi

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