ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 09

There could have been mayhem in the market

By Malik Gunatilleke

The claymore mine detected at the Delkanda weekly pola last Sunday would have gone off in 10 minutes if an alert vendor had not spotted it, police have revealed. This was the first time that a mine had been timed to go off at a crowded weekly fair, police said.

Bomb squad members inspect the parcel

Mirihana police Superintendent T.M.W.D. Tennakoon, who is heading the probe said the mine was packed with 84kg of C4 explosives and included over six kg of steel balls.

He said although initially they believed the bomb was targeting senior SLFP members travelling in that direction after the SLFP convention on Sunday, the location and potency of it have prompted them to conclude that it was targeting the civilians who throng this popular pola every Sunday.

He said this claymore mine was different from others that are usually triggered manually with the use of a detonator. He said this mine was fixed with a sophisticated timing device that required a code to activate and deactivate it.

“We believe that about 200 people would have been at risk, as the bomb was capable of wiping out everything in a 25 metre radius,” he said.

He said the packing of over 5000 steel balls around the explosives would have caused a deadly spray of steel balls and just one ball travelling at that lethal speed had the potential of taking a human life. The package carrying the bomb also contained an Energizer battery, a timer and two detonators.

“We had implemented a special security plan in the area and the Delkanda pola in view of the VIPs travelling in that direction. This enabled us to act fast and inform the Bomb Disposal Squad on time,” he said.

He said although there was no breakthrough regarding how and when the bomb was placed at the fair, four suspects have been taken in for questioning.

Saved by alert vendor

A poor but vigilant spice vendor from Piliyandala, was the hero at the Delkanda pola last week.Colvin Ekanayake usually sets up his stall at about 5 a.m. and sells his wares till about 12. 30 p.m.

Recounting the events of that day he said he was on his feet throughout the day in front of the stall selling spices to his usual customers and went behind the counter only at about 12. 30 as he was feeling tired.

“That is probably when someone would have left the package at my stall,” he said. At this point when one of his customers had walked up to the stall and he had asked her to hand over the bottle of water from the front of the stall, the customer noticed the package lying on the floor. “We initially thought that someone would have left the package behind while buying something from the stall. However, it was too heavy to be a vegetable bag,” he said.

Colvin: The hero of Delkanda pola. Pix by Saman Kariyawasam

The package which was unusually heavy was then opened by Colvin and his wife only to find a comb of ash plantains clumsily covering a time bomb. The vendor then rushed to inform police officers nearby of the explosives little realizing that it had been set to explode in 10 minutes.

First on the scene was Chief Inspector Samson Perera who evacuated the area of civilians and vendors and contacted the Army Bomb Disposal Squad.

Colvin, the father of four, received Rs. 300,000 from Police Chief Victor Perera for his contribution to public service and vigilance last week.

However, when The Sunday Times caught up with him selling his spices at the Maharagama Pola, he said he was not proud of the reward he received for being alert. “I am proud that I was able to save many innocent lives at the pola that Sunday. I am also grateful that my children did not lose both parents,” he said.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.