Bombings, gunbattles in Sri Lankan capital
At least 12 dead
October 15, 1997
Web posted at: 10:59 a.m. EDT (1459 GMT)
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (CNN) -- A massive truck bomb, followed by
two smaller explosions and raging gunbattles killed at least
12 people and wounded about 100 Wednesday in the Sri Lankan capital.
It was one of the worst outbreaks of violence in the capital
since civil war broke out 14 years ago.
The government blamed insurgent Tamil Tigers for the attack;
a spokesman for the separatist group in London denied
The main blast rocked the city's business district
around 7 a.m. near two popular hotels and the World Trade
Center, which had just opened on Sunday and was billed as a symbol of the nation's prosperity despite the civil war.
Hospital and military officials said about 100 people, including about 30 international tourists, were wounded in the explosion, which sent shards of glass flying through city streets and left a crater 20 feet (6 meters) in diameter and 10 feet (3 meters) deep. Most of the injuries were slight wounds from the flying glass.
"The whole window crashed in. I was saved because I was
covered with a blanket," said Singaporean Tan Kim, who was
staying at the nearby Hilton Hotel.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Ravinatha Aryasinha condemned the
blast as an act of terrorism by Tamil rebels.
"It is particularly significant that they have carried out
this attack in a location where it would have been well known
that foreign nationals would be hurt," he said. "This
reflects that they do not care about international opinion."
A CNN reporter in the capital said two smaller explosions
followed the initial blast and that gunbattles between Sri
Lankan police and rebels erupted in city streets. The
shooting went on for hours as troops tried to flush out
pockets of rebels hiding in nearby buildings.
At one point, about 20 people were trapped in a government
newspaper building where three suspected Tamil Tiger gunmen
fled after the blast. The hostages were later freed by
troops and the three gunmen were killed, Reuters reported.
Police and hospital spokespersons said at least nine
civilians, including a Buddhist priest, were killed in the
blasts and subsequent fighting.
Sri Lanka's army has been locked in a 14-year conflict with
the Tamil Tigers, who are fighting for an independent state
for minority Tamils in predominantly Sinhalese Sri Lanka.
More than 50,000 people have been killed since the civil war
began in 1983, according to government figures. The rebel
group says the death toll is much higher.
Reuters contributed to this report.