General, Dozens More Killed in Sri Lankan Blast

Retired Maj. Gen. Janaka Perera and his wife were
among the dead and at least 80 more were wounded in the bomb attack at the
United National Party office in Anuradhapura town, some 124 miles north of the
capital Colombo, military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara told the Associated

“A suicide bomber went inside and exploded. My
senior officer there said 22 people were killed, and among the dead were Janaka
Perera and his wife,” Deputy Inspector General K.P.P. Pathirana told
Reuters. Hospital officials later raised the death toll to 26.

The blast comes amid renewed clashes between
government troops and Tamil Tiger fighters over control of the rebels’
administrative capital in the northern town of Kilinochchi.

Fighting on Sunday killed 17 rebels and wounded 30
near Kilinochchi, while one soldier was killed and eight were wounded, the
military said.

The military said Monday’s blast was the latest
carried out by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who are credited
with establishing the practice of suicide bombing during a decades-long war to
establish a separate homeland for the country’s Tamil minority. Tamils have
long voiced claims of discrimination at the hands of governments controlled by
majority ethnic Sinhalese.

“It was an LTTE suicide attack,” military
spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said, according to Reuters.

Wearing a hidden explosives vest, the assailant
“embraced the former commander” before detonating, the
rebel-affiliated TamilNet Web site reported, according to news services.

The bomber apparently targeted Perera because of his
successes against the separatist cause during his years in the military,
Nanayakkara said.

However, an official from the United National Party
accused the government of requests for a stronger security detail for Perera,
who has also criticized the way Colombo has conducted its military campaign
against the rebels.

“The government must take full
responsibility,” party officlal Tissa Attanayake said, according to the
BBC. “They did not give him adequate security for political reasons.”

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa condemned the
attack and said the Tamil Tiger group faces “severe setbacks” in its
northern strongholds and “is now making every attempt to create violent
backlashes in other parts of the country.”

Sri Lanka’s government ended a six-year cease-fire
with Tamil Tiger rebels in January amid an uptick in violence, including a
roadside bomb that exploded near a bus in the capital city of Colombo, killing
four people.

The military and rebels have been engaged in a civil
war for more than 20 years, and the now-defunct truce, signed by Prime Minister
Ranil Wickremesinghe and the Tamil Tiger rebels’ leader Velupillai Prabhakaran
in 2002, was thought to be the best chance of permanently ending the conflict.
It received widespread international support, especially from the United
States, Japan, European Union and India.