8 dead in suicide attack near Sri Lankan capital

Colombo, December 28:

A suspected Tamil rebel suicide bomber killed at least seven troops and one civilian in a blast at a guard post near the Sri Lankan capital today, authorities said.

Another 17 people, including four civilians, were wounded. The blast came as heavy fighting in the 25-year-old war between Tamil Tiger rebels and government forces raged in the country’s north. The navy said it destroyed a rebel boat and a pro-rebel Web site reported at least 65 soldiers were killed in a battle near a guerrilla stronghold.

Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said the suicide bomber forced his way into the Civil Defence Force post in Wattala town and blew himself up. Wattala is a few km north of Colombo. The blast killed six Civil Defence Force officers, one army soldier and a civilian, while another 13 officers and four civilians were wounded, Nanayakkara said. He blamed the Tamil Tigers.

Dinesh Kumara, 29, was selling vegetables at a nearby fair when the blast went off. “I heard a huge sound. Then when I ran to the site, I saw flesh and blood splattered all over the area,” Kumara said.

An Associated Press photographer at the scene saw several bodies and body parts on the ground. No one claimed responsibility for the blast, and there was no immediate comment from the guerrillas.

The Tamil Tigers, listed by the US and European Union as a terrorist organisation, routinely deny involvement in suicide attacks.