COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — A bomber blew himself up Friday, killing 18 other people and wounding 46 here in Sri Lanka's capital, but he apparently missed his target--a motorcade of Cabinet ministers.
Police said that, in addition to the bomb that went off, jackets laden with explosives and two rocket-propelled grenades were found in the area. Military officials blamed Tamil separatists for the blast.
The victims, mostly workers who were heading home, were taken to the National Hospital in Colombo. Two dozen cars were damaged.
"There were lots of vehicles at that time, and then there was a big explosion, and then I heard gunfire after the blast," said D.A. Ratnayake, a traffic policeman wounded in the explosion.
Ratnayake was part of a large security detail, including anti-terrorist commandos, assigned to guard the Cabinet ministers as they traveled home from Parliament. Five of those killed were police officers.
One resident, K. Vasantha, said he saw five men running. "They were all armed. They threatened everyone and kept on running," he said.
The men ran in the direction of the road leading to Parliament, apparently discarding explosives-laden jackets as they escaped.
The blast came as Parliament discussed extending emergency rule in northern Sri Lanka, where authorities are fighting Tamil separatists.
"The defense minister was in Parliament. This was a known fact," said Batty Weerakoon, the science and technology minister. "I am not surprised if he was the target."
The defense minister, Anuruddha Ratwatte, heads military operations against the Tamil separatists.