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Author Topic: Sri Lankan ministers attacked near mosque  (Read 522 times)
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« on: Mar 12, 2009 09:38 PM »

Anyone know if members of this blog was affected? Wasn't there a young at heart retired gentlemen name Haniff or Hanif from Sri Lanka? - World - Sri Lankan ministers attacked near mosque
Tamil Tigers blamed for deadly explosion at Muslim festival parade

March 11, 2009
Bharatha Mallawarachi

COLOMBO – A suicide bomber attacked government ministers leading a procession to mark a Muslim festival in southern Sri Lanka yesterday, killing 14 people and severely wounding one of the officials.

The government blamed Tamil Tiger separatists for the blast, which wounded 45 others, saying the rebels had grown desperate in the face of an army offensive that has driven them close to defeat after more than 25 years of civil war.

As the military has pushed the rebels into an ever-shrinking sliver of territory in the north, human rights and aid groups have voiced concern for the fate of the tens of thousands of civilians trapped in the pocket.

Heavy artillery attacks yesterday killed at least 49 ethnic Tamil civilians and wounded hundreds of others, the top government health official in the war zone said.

While fighting rages in the north, the suicide attacker struck in the southern town of Akuressa as six ministers led a procession toward a mosque for a ceremony to commemorate the prophet Mohammed's birthday.

"I heard a huge sound, and then I saw people had fallen everywhere,'' Ahamed Nafri, 29, said by telephone from the hospital in the nearby town of Matara.

"They were covered with blood and flesh, and the wounded people were screaming."

Police and bystanders hauled the badly bleeding Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Mahinda Wijesekara into a van.

He was later flown to the capital for treatment to a head wound.

A hospital official said the minister underwent three hours of surgery and was still in serious condition late yesterday.

The attack came as government forces stood poised to rout the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam from their last stronghold in the northeast after a 20-month offensive.

The rebels have fought since 1983 for an independent state for the Tamil minority, which suffered decades of marginalization at the hands of governments dominated by the Sinhalese majority. More than 70,000 people have been killed.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa's office said selecting a mosque on an Islamic festival for the attack showed the rebels' "hatred" of Muslims and strengthened the government's resolve to defeat them.

There was no indication Muslims were specifically targeted yesterday.

With most communication to the north severed, rebel spokespersons could not be reached for comment.

In the north, Dr. Thurairaja Varatharajah, the top government health official there, said shell fire continued to hit a government designated civilian refuge as heavy rains forced families into the open.

By the afternoon, 279 wounded civilians were brought to the makeshift hospital he runs in the area, and 43 of them died because of lack of adequate care, he said.

Since the beginning of March, 1,205 wounded civilians were brought to the hospital and 218 people either died at the facility or were brought to the morgue by relatives, he said.


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