Prime Minister, 15 Others Hurt in Sri Lanka Parliament Blast

Associated Press

Attackers hurled three bombs today into a governing party meeting in the Parliament, wounding the prime minister and other top officials shortly before the body was to discuss a Tamil peace accord, an official said.

One of the bombs exploded 10 yards away from President Junius R. Jayewardene, but he was not hurt, said the official, who was an eyewitness.

Prime Minister Ranasinghe Premadasa suffered leg wounds. At least 15 others--including five government ministers and 10 legislators--were also injured, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

One of the injured was identified as Gamini Jayasuriya, the agriculture minister.

The bombs were thrown into a meeting of United National Party members, which was scheduled to precede a parliamentary discussion of a new agreement to end the four-year Tamil insurgency.

The Parliament was to debate the July 29 agreement between India and Sri Lanka, intended to end the war that has claimed an estimated 6,000 lives.

Eyewitnesses said the Parliament building was evacuated minutes after the blast. There was no word on the identity of the attackers.

Authorities had tightened security in Colombo, the capital, to prevent demonstrations linked to the parliamentary session.

Militant Sinhalese have protested violently against the peace agreement, which provides substantial autonomy to the Tamils in this island nation just off the southern coast of India. Most Sinhalese are Buddhists, while most Tamils are Hindus.

Roadblocks and police posts have been set up in Colombo and other major cities because of anticipated demonstrations by both Tamils and Sinhalese. More than 70 people were killed in clashes with police during three days of rioting after the peace agreement was signed.

An estimated 60 million Tamils live in southern India, where most of the Sri Lankan Tamil guerrilla groups have their headquarters, and India has tried to mediate an end to the Sri Lankan fighting. Tamil militants were fighting for an autonomous state.

Under the accord, the Tamil rebels were to surrender all their arms by today, the government was to release nearly 5,000 suspected Tamil guerrillas and army troops were to return to their barracks.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World