Colombo: At least 25 people, including a television journalist and two key members of the main opposition United National Party (UNP), were killed and 80 more injured when a suspected Tamil Tiger suicide bomber blew himself up in Sri Lanka's north-central town of Anuradhapura Monday, the military said.
Military spokesman Brig Udaya Nanayakkara said the suicide bombing occurred around 8.45 am at a UNP function near the old bus stand in Anuradhapura town, over 200 km north of here. A retired major general, who was part of the UNP, was among those killed on the spot.
"According to the latest report, 25 people, including retired Maj Gen Janaka Perera, UNP manager for Anuradhapura John Pulle and their wives were killed, and 80 more wounded in the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) suicide explosion," Brig Nanayakkara said.
GORE ALL AROUND: A soldier secures the site of a suicide bomb explosion in the north-central Anuradhapura.
Perera served as the chief of staff of the Sri Lanka Army between 2000 and 2001. After retiring from the army, he served as high commissioner to Australia and ambassador to Indonesia.
Perera later joined the UNP and had contested in the provincial council poll held last month for the north-central province. He became the opposition leader of the council.
A UNP parliamentarian here said the bomb explosion took place at a function to declare open a new party office in the heavily-guarded Anuradhapura town.
A provincial journalist of a prominent private television channel in Colombo and a few other UNP provincial council members were among those killed in the powerful blast in the ancient capital of Anuradhapura Monday.
"Our provincial reporter Mohammed Rashmi Maharoof, aged 31, who went to cover the opposition party event was also killed in the blast," a spokesman for Maharaja Television Network (MTV) said.
The wounded, some of them in serious condition, were admitted to the nearby Anuradhapura base hospital.
There was no immediate reaction from the rebels in this regard.
The suicide explosion has taken place at a time when the military had said troops advancing from various directions were just two kilometres from the LTTE's "administrative capital" of Kilinochchi and were determined to capture it.
The LTTE has been fighting the Sri Lankan government to carve out a separate state for Tamils in the northern and eastern part of the island for the past three decades. Thousands have died in fighting between the LTTE and the military since late 2005.