ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, December 3, 2006
Vol. 41 - No 27

Three-wheeler got closer and closer and then a bang...

By Asif Fuard
As pandemonium reigned in Colombo following Friday’s LTTE suicide bomb attack on Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, security has been beefed up with the Army, Air Force and Police carrying out cordon and search operations in and around the city.
Police sources told The Sunday Times that house-to house search operations had been carried out in cordon and search operations at Kadawatha, Kirulapone, Wellawatte and Narahenpita. Friday’s attack prompted some schools and offices to close earlier than scheduled with panic-stricken parents rushing to schools to take their children home.

The bullet-proof BMW vehicle that probably saved Gotabhaya’s life

The school closest to the site of the attack, Bishops College, was in the middle of a Christmas carol service when the bomb exploded. The Sunday Times learns that students had been asked to lie down on the floor as a precautionary measure. Meanwhile, security of VIPs will be strengthened as the LTTE’s latest modus operandi appears to be attacking isolated targets. Director of Ministerial Security Division SSP Sarath Perera said they are already providing security for 153 MPs and 43 non-members of parliament adding that they hope to increase the security personnel for most VIPs under LTTE threat.

This suicide attack on Friday comes just three weeks after Tamil National Alliance Parlimentarian N. Raviraj’s assassination. Police Chief Victor Perera assured the public then that security in the city would be tightened and the government promised to bring Scotland Yard detectives to assist the CID in their investigations.

The Defence Secretary had left his official residence and was on his way to meet his brother, President Mahinda Rajapaksa for a Security Council meeting at the president’s official residence Temple Trees when the bomber driving a red three wheeler attempted to ram the security convoy at the Pittala Junction in Colombo-3. Two soldiers who were part of the security contingent died while 18 others were injured.

The suicide bomber who had apparently being carrying ten kilograms of explosives in his three wheeler had been following Mr. Rajapaksa’s convoy for some time. According to eye witnesses, the three-wheeler had been directed to move away from the convoy as it attempted to get closer to it. The bomber struck as the convoy halted due to the morning traffic. He had apparently detonated himself by triggering a switch in the three-wheeler, security sources say.

Mr. Rajapaksa who was unharmed mainly because of the bullet proof BMW 7 series vehicle he was travelling in and the backup vehicle that cut across the path of the three-wheeler, was immediately escorted out of his vehicle and rushed to the Temple Trees in another backup vehicle while commandos shot in the air to clear the area of traffic.

The body of the suspected suicide bomber, whose head had been severed from the rest of his body was found lying on top of a vehicle that was part of Mr. Rajapaksa’s escort.. The body was taken away immediately for investigations. Ajith Kumara , one of the commando’s assigned to protect the Defence Secretary describing his near death experience told The Sunday Times that they had noticed a red three wheeler following them for some time.

“We blew our whistles at the three-wheeler and even pointed guns at him to scare him off but he kept coming closer and closer to the convoy. The driver appeared to be in a great hurry and just as we took aim to fire at the tyres of the three wheeler, we got caught in the traffic and he got closer to us and detonated himself in the three-wheeler,” Ajith said.

“We then realized it was a suicide bomber and soon the whole place was covered in thick black smoke and there was chaos. I ran to Mr. Rajapaksa’s vehicle helped him to get out of it and put him in one of our Defender’s. We shot in the air to clear the area of people and stop vehicles moving in so that we could rush him to the President’s house,” he said.

K. Jayatissa a security guard at one of the offices close to the scene and who had been injured in the blast and was receiving treatment at the National Hospital said he saw the VIP convoy making its way before it got caught in the traffic at the Pittala junction. “The next moment I was thrown off by the impact of the blast. I was unconscious for a few seconds and when I came around I saw a massive ball of fire and people running here and there.

“Just before the blast I saw commandos of the Defence Secretary blowing their whistles and shouting at the suspected three-wheeler . As soon as the convoy had to stop because of the traffic, the three-wheeler that attempted to ram into Mr. Rajapaksa’s convoy was blocked by one of the backup vehicles which he rammed into and then exploded. ”Due to the impact I was thrown away and was unconscious for a few minutes,” another eye witness Mahinda Gunasekara who was receiving treatment at the hospital said.

Meanwhile making a statement after the attempt on his life the Gotabaya Rajapaksa who is a retired Army Colonel said, "I take this opportunity to inform you that I am not ready to abandon the responsibility we have towards the country, in the face of such cowardly attacks by the LTTE, and to reaffirm our commitment to the national need to defeat the LTTE's terrorism.” The United States and Britain have strongly condemned the attack on Mr. Rajapaksa British Prime Minister Tony Blair conveyed his regret and condemnation in a phone call to President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Top to the page

Copyright 2006 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.