brutal bus attack
- 15 killed, 40 wounded =Govt. vows it won’t
be deterred in counter-terror offensives
second bus bomb in successive days saw at least 15 passengers killed
and more than 40 wounded in an explosion inside a bus at Godagama
near Hikkaduwa yesterday. However, the government vowed such brutal
attacks on civilians would not deter it from counter-terror operations
in the north and east.
The explosion barely 24 hours after a similar
blast on a bus at Nittambuwa, senior security officials said was
clear evidence that Tiger guerillas had started targeting civilians
in the south in a bid to divert the military from operations in
the north and east.
However, there were conflicting reports on how
yesterday’s explosion had occurred. Meetiyagoda’s police
inspector G. Gunasena said initial reports indicated that a parcel
bomb placed on the hood rack at the rear end of the bus had caused
But Southern Province Deputy Inspector General
Jayantha Gamage said a woman who had a parcel on her lap was believed
to have triggered the explosion. Her charred body was inside the
bus till late evening and was removed to the Karapitiya Hospital.
After the explosion the bus virtually went out
of control and ran a distance of 20-30 metres before it was brought
to a halt by the driver, the DIG said. Hours after the blast, President
Mahinda Rajapaksa met service commanders and senior police officers
at Temple Trees and discussed the current situation and measures
necessary to ensure security to the people.
President Rajapaksa rushed back from Kalutara
where he attended a function in Ketharama Kande Viharaya to inaugurate
the tallest Buddha statue in Sri Lanka. He told the gathering at
the temple ceremony that it was the government’s responsibility
to protect all the people of this country.
Last evening Meetiyagoda Police were awaiting
the arrival of officials from the Government Analyst’s Department
to conduct tests which could prove how the explosion occurred inside
the private bus plying from Colombo to Matara around 2. 20 p.m.
Among the injured, the condition of ten was said
to be serious and they are under intensive care at the Karapitiya
and Balapitiya hospitals. The Leyland bus had left Pettah around
11.30a.m and had stopped along the way to pick up and drop passengers.
Bus driver Rukmal Mahendra, one of the few who escaped unhurt, said
that the bus was suddenly shaken by an explosion and he managed
to bring it to a stop as soon as he could.
The conductor who was in front had been moving
towards the rear end of the bus to issue tickets when the blast
took place, he said. The conductor is believed to be among the injured.
Eyewitness Jeevantha Lakmal, who was coming behind the bus on a
motorbike, said that as he was trying to overtake the bus, he heard
a blast. “There was a ball of fire from inside the bus and
two or three persons were thrown out. I was hit by shrapnel and
injured,” he said.
A vendor said he heard the blast and saw the bus
in a ball of fire. He said he and a few more persons got into the
bus and brought the wounded passengers out. “We saw a lot
of wounded passengers. Some were dead,” he said.
Nineteen-year-old Mohammed Ashrif, who was among
the injured, said he and four of his friends were going home after
attending an A/L tuition class in Beruwala when the tragic incident
happened. “We were seated in the middle section of the bus
and suddenly we heard a loud noise from the rear side. Many people
were injured and those who could move struggled to get out”,
Military spokesman Prasad Samarasinghe yesterday
blamed the LTTE for both bomb explosions, saying it was apparent
that the Tigers were trying to divert the military from their operations
in the east and the north. The bodies of the victims were taken
to the Balapitiya Hospital, but by last evening only three had been
A large number of civilians also rushed to the
scene to help move the victims to hospitals while police diverted
traffic on this stretch of the Galle Road. Balapitiya’s Acting
Magistrate Samantha Thabrew and Galle’s Judicial Medical Officer
Dr. U.R.P Perera visited the scene last evening for inquiries.
As police investigation began, detectives said
three suspects had been taken in for questioning. Meanwhile the
government in a statement condemned the LTTE attacks as acts of
The Media Centre for National Security said the
government believed that the LTTE was attempting to divert attention
from the continuous defeats it had been suffering at the hands of
the security forces in the recent past. “At a time when the
security forces are successfully carrying out counter-terrorist
measures to restore civil administration in the North and East,
the LTTE has resorted to terror attacks in the south to disrupt
normalcy,” the MCNS said. “The government reiterates
that terror attacks will not deter its efforts to find a peaceful
solution to the national problem or its measures to defeat terrorism.
“The LTTE's terror attacks will only strengthen
the government’s resolve to defeat terrorism and restore normalcy
in the North and East,” it said.
Security tightened on buses, trains
In the aftermath of two brutal attacks on private buses, the government
yesterday ordered immediate measures for tighter security on buses
and trains with all passengers and luggage to be closely checked.
An emergency meeting will be held today between private bus operators,
Transport Minister A.H.M. Fowzie and the Police to work out and
implement the new security measures.
Minister Fowzie told The Sunday Times that security on state-owned
buses and trains had already been enhanced but it was the government’s
responsibility to provide adequate security even for private buses.
“We will discuss the crisis measures with the Police and
implement them immediately,” he said. Private Bus Operators
Association President Gemunu Wijeratne said they would take immediate
security measures to safeguard passengers.
“This is a crisis situation and we have sought an urgent
meeting with the Transport Minister ,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Government yesterday advised the people not to travel
in buses and trains that did not carry out security checks on baggage.
It said the passengers had the right to insist that the bus crews
conduct security checks on all before boarding buses.
In a statement, the Media Centre for National Security said the
government had told the Transport Board, all bus terminals and railway
authorities to check luggage and other parcels of passengers before