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Rush-Hour Bomb Kills 26 in Sri Lanka; 100 Injured

November 10, 1987|From Times Wire Services

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — A powerful bomb exploded Monday evening outside the capital's main railway station, where thousands of commuters waited for buses home, and at least 26 people were killed and more than 100 were injured, police said.

Bodies and parts of bodies lay scattered on the street and sidewalks in the capital's Maradana district. At least 25 damaged cars and buses littered the area. One bus, which may have held the bomb, was completely burned. Broken glass from nearby buildings covered the street.

Rescue workers at the scene put the death toll at more than 50 and said it may reach 70.

The bomb went off near a police station and a main bus stop slightly more than a mile east of downtown Colombo as thousands of people lined the Maradana Road waiting for buses home to the eastern suburbs.

State-run television blamed the attack on extremists of the majority Sinhalese community opposed to an Indian-brokered peace accord aimed at ending a four-year-old civil war between Tamil separatists and the Sinhalese-controlled government.

A Parliament debate on implementing the peace agreement is scheduled to begin today.

Police and soldiers in Colombo had been on alert because officials expected an attempt by radicals in the Sinhalese majority to foment riots on the eve of the Parliament debate.

Death Threats

Leaders of the People's Liberation Front, the major Sinhalese nationalist group, have threatened death to anyone who supports the peace accord.

Sinhalese radicals, and many other Sinhalese, believe the peace pact makes too many concessions to the Tamils and gives India sway over this small island nation just to its south.

But some Tamil militants also have condemned the accord, and intelligence sources did not rule out the possibility that Tamil guerrillas planted the bomb.

No group has taken responsibility for the attack.

Constable Wimal Fernando said he was leaving the police station when "the blast of the bomb almost threw me back inside. I was shocked when I realized there were bodies all over and vehicles were on fire."

Chandrasiri Rupasinghe, 31, was walking toward a bus stand when the bomb exploded. After the blast, he saw smoke rising from cars and began pulling wounded people away from the flames. "Some of them were on fire," he said.

At Colombo General Hospital, a police official said many of the wounded lost limbs.

Soldiers fired into the air to disperse crowds impeding rescue work. Police and military units cordoned off the area.

Earlier Blast

Monday's explosion was the first major bombing in Colombo since a car bomb April 21 killed 106 people and injured more than 300 at the main bus terminal.

That blast, also during the afternoon rush hour, was blamed on Tamil rebels.

India and Sri Lanka signed the peace agreement July 29. It provides autonomy for northern and eastern Sri Lanka, where most Tamils live.

Tamil rebels had sought a separate nation because they said the Tamil minority was discriminated against by the country's Sinhalese majority.

India became involved because it has a Tamil population of about 60 million. Tamil rebel groups have maintained exile headquarters in southern Tamil Nadu state.

Most Tamils are Hindus, the predominant religion in India. They make up 18% of Sri Lanka's 16 million people and claim discrimination by the overwhelmingly Buddhist Sinhalese, who control the government and military.

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