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Sinhalese Terrorists Blamed for Sri Lanka Parliament Attack

August 19, 1987|From Times Wire Services

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — President Junius R. Jayewardene blamed Sinhalese terrorists Tuesday for an attack earlier in the day in a Parliament meeting room that killed one lawmaker and injured 14 but left him unharmed.

At least one assailant hurled grenades into the conference room on Tuesday morning, failing in an apparent bid to assassinate the president. Some accounts indicated there were multiple attackers and that automatic weapons were used. Other reports put the number of wounded at 16. No arrests were made.

Later Tuesday night, a previously unknown group calling itself the Patriotic People's Movement claimed responsibility. A caller told a British Broadcasting Corp. correspondent the attacks would continue because the government "betrayed the people by entering into an agreement with India." He was referring to the accord the two neighbors signed last month in an effort to end Sri Lanka's four-year-long Tamil insurrection.

Jayewardene said on national radio that he was the target of an assassination attempt by terrorists angered by the Tamil accord.

Sections of the Sinhalese majority in the south of this island nation have protested violently against the pact as a sellout to the Tamils, who live mainly in the north and east. Most Sinhalese are Buddhists, while most Tamils are Hindus. The degree of resentment seemed dramatically highlighted when a Sri Lankan sailor, a member of an honor guard, assaulted Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi with his rifle butt hours after the prime minister signed the pact in July.

The United States condemned the attack on Parliament. "We are shocked by this outrageous act of violence and express our sympathy with the victims," the State Department said.

Kirthi Abeywickreme, district minister for the southern Matara region, died of his wounds, according to the official radio.

The president said Parliamentary Affairs Minister Vincent Perera was one of those wounded by "two or three blasts, which I learned later were gunshots or . . . grenades." Jayewardene said his own shirt was stained with blood, adding, "I will keep it as a memento."

Prime Minister Ranasinghe Premadasa's leg was slightly cut. Cabinet ministers wounded were National Security Minister Lalith Athulathmudali; Agriculture Minister Gamini Jayasuriya; Minister of Plantation Industries W. G. Montague Jayewickreme and Cultural Affairs Minister E. L. B. Hurulle.

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