Suicide Bombers Stalk Sri Lanka Leaders
Sri Lanka is bracing for more assassination attempts by Tamil Tiger guerrillas following reports that about 50 suicide bombers had infiltrated the capital Colombo, police said Sunday.
The latest suicide bombing on Thursday underscored the large number of Black Tigers, or suicide cadres of the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), officials here said.
Colombo's Deputy Police Inspector General Bodhi Liyanage said he believed at least 23 suicide bombers together with about 15 of their handlers were in the capital.
However, the state-run Sunday Observer quoted its police sources as saying 47 Black Tigers were in the capital and the authorities were planning several unspecified counter measures to minimize attacks.
The newspaper said the guerrillas had increased the amount of explosives packed in the jackets worn by suicide bombers from about 700 grams to six kilos (13.2 pounds).
The bomber who detonated explosives strapped to his body Thursday outside the main town hall here, killing himself and two others had about six kilos of plastic explosives, the paper said.
The LTTE was held responsible for Thursday's suicide bomb attack seen by investigators as a failure for the perpetrators of the bombing.
"The town hall could not have been target of the attack," a senior police officer here said. "Obviously something went wrong for them and we were lucky to have averted a bigger tragedy."
Thursday's bombing was the fourth failed suicide attack by Tamil Tigers in the capital this year.
On September 15, a Tamil Tiger suicide bomber detonated explosives strapped to his body as he was about to be body searched by police outside the main eye hospital here. A policeman and six bystanders were killed.
There was an identical bombing when a woman suicide bomber was being subject to a body search by a woman constable of the prime minister's security division on January 5. A total of 12 people were killed in that attack.
On March 10, at least six suicide bombers tried to target a convoy along the main road to the national parliament, but they were discovered and fought street battles with security forces.
The guerrillas have had high profile success too.
On June 7, a suicide bomber assassinated Industries Minister C.V. Gooneratne and killed another 25 people at a rally near here to raise money for government troops.
Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake stressed the need for additional precautions when he made his first address to the cabinet that was sworn in shortly after Thursday's suicide bombing.
"They have failed this time," the prime minister said referring to bomb attack outside the town hall. "In future, the terrorists may try to escalate their attacks."
The bombing came as Kumaratunga swore-in her new 44-member cabinet at her tightly-guarded official residence several miles away from where the bomb went off.
"Please pay extra attention to your own safety while attending public meetings and other social functions," the prime minister said adding that he feared more attacks.
Several roads in the capital are already closed for fear of drive by bombings by the Tamil Tigers who consider suicide bombers, of Black Tigers, as their "protective armor.” – COLOMBO (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)