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Sri Lankan in Honor Guard Attacks Gandhi

July 30, 1987|Associated Press

NEW DELHI — Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi said good peripheral vision and quick reflexes enabled him to escape serious injury today when a sailor in a Sri Lankan honor guard hit him with a rifle.

The guard, apparently incensed at Gandhi's signing of a controversial pact intended to end Sri Lanka's ethnic civil war, struck the prime minister during a ceremony today at the presidential palace in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka.

Gandhi, who said he suffered only "a lump," told journalists the sailor swung the rifle at his head.

"When I was inspecting the guard of honor and as I walked past one person, I saw through the corner of my eye some movement," he told journalists upon returning to New Delhi. "Then I saw a man reverse his rifle at me.

Ducked in Reflex Action

"I ducked down a little bit in a reflex action. By my ducking, he missed my head and the brunt of the blow came on my shoulder below the left ear," he said.

"Can't you see I am not hurt? Do you want me to take off my clothes?" he asked jokingly.

An Indian television clip showed the Sri Lankan guard lunging at Gandhi and swinging his weapon.

Associated Press photographer Sondeep Shankar, who was at the scene, said the blow staggered Gandhi. The guard, who was not identified, was overpowered and dragged away struggling by Gandhi's security guards.

The sailor's rifle, like all those for elite guards with security clearance, was equipped with a bayonet but was unloaded and had no firing mechanism.

Indian troops moved into northern Sri Lanka today to help implement the peace accord.

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