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Sri Lanka Actor-Politician Assassinated : Popular Sinhalese Film Star Was Expected to Run for President

February 16, 1988|Associated Press

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — A powerful Sinhalese politician and popular actor who was expected to run for president was assassinated at his home today, a day after his political alliance condemned recent killings by radical Sinhalese nationalists.

Senior police officials blamed the outlawed People's Liberation Front, an ultra-nationalist Sinhalese group, for the death of Vijaya Kumaranatunga.

Eight hours later, bombs exploded in temple crowded with Tamil worshipers during celebrations to the Hindu god of destruction, killing five people. Police said two powerful devices placed in the main shrine room of the temple at Wellawatte, five miles south of Colombo, exploded almost simultaneously at 7:50 p.m. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Kumaranatunga, 43, led the Sri Lankan Mahajana (People's) Party and was expected to run as a candidate for president.

The popular film star was killed with a submachine gun while talking to several people in the yard of his home in Polhengoda, four miles east of Colombo. Another man was injured by the gunfire.

Besides condemning radical Sinhalese terrorists, Kumaranatunga was a supporter of the Indian-Sri Lankan peace accord that aims to end the insurgency by separatists from the Tamil minority.

The People's Liberation Front has vowed to kill anyone who supports the accord, and President Junius R. Jayewardene has blamed the front for the deaths of more than 150 government officials and members of his United National Party.

Hundreds of people gathered at Kumaranatunga's home and Colombo General Hospital, where the politician's body was taken. A scuffle broke out near the hospital morgue, where teen-agers and elderly women wailed over the death.

Kumaranatunga's wife, Chandrika, the daughter of former Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike, was at the hospital.

Bandaranaike, whose Sri Lanka Freedom Party opposes the accord, was prime minister from 1960 to 1965 and from 1970 to 1977. Her husband, S.W.F.D. Bandaranaike, was prime minister from 1956 until his assassination in 1959.

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