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Sri Lanka Ruling Party Chief, 3 Others Slain; Rebels Blamed

December 23, 1987|Reuters

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — The chairman of Sri Lanka's ruling United National Party and three others were shot to death today by a gunman suspected of belonging to a Sinhalese rebel group opposed to the island's peace pact with India.

Police said Harsha Abeywardene was gunned down close to his home in Colombo's busy Wellawatte district while he was being driven to his office.

Abeywardene's bodyguard, driver and servant, traveling in the car, were also killed when a lone assassin opened fire at close range with a T-56 rifle and hurled grenades. The killer escaped.

Police and party sources said they suspect the attacker was from the outlawed People's Liberation Front, composed of Marxist Sinhalese youth.

The Front, which opposes a peace pact signed by India and Sri Lanka to end a Tamil rebellion, has said it has killed about 265 officials and supporters of the ruling party across the island since the July 29 accord.

The rebel group has condemned the proposed merger of the northern and eastern provinces where most Tamils live and the presence of 35,000 Indian troops on the island to enforce the accord.

Abeywardene, 47, was reelected party chairman at its annual convention last Saturday attended by more than 5,000 delegates.

A high party official said Abeywardene's killing was probably the Front's reply to bitter criticism of the rebels by President Junius Jayewardene last weekend.

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