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Jan 02, 2008 at 05:10pm IST

Roadside blast in Colombo kills 4 killed

New Delhi: Suspected rebels detonated a roadside bomb near a bus carrying wounded soldiers in the heart of Sri Lanka's Capital Colombo on Wednesday, killing four people and injuring 24 others, the military said.

The bomb targeted a bus carrying army personnel. According to the Srilankan Defence ministry website, the blast occurred opposite the Nippon hotel in Slave island at 0930 hrs, IST in the morning on Wednesday.

The explosion is reported to have caused considerable damage to the hotel building. Reports say that a powerful device was used to trigger the blast.

The blast in Colombo's Slave Island area killed one soldier and three civilian passers-by, military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said.

Twenty-four people injured in the blast, including 11 soldiers, were taken to Colombo National Hospital for treatment, said Anil Jasinghe, a doctor at the hospital.

Nanayakkara said Tamil Tiger rebels were suspected of detonating the bomb, which had been planted opposite a small hotel and was targeting a bus that was heading to the hospital with soldiers who had been wounded in battles with the insurgents.

Phone calls to rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan's office went unanswered.

The rebels are fighting for an independent homeland for SriLanka's ethnic minority Tamils and are blamed for numerous bomb attacks against political, military and civilian targets, but the group has routinely denied any involvement.

In November, a rebel suicide bomber killed herself and another man in Colombo after she failed to get near a government minister, her apparent target. On the same evening a powerful bomb went off near a busy clothing store in a suburb of the capital killing nearly 20 civilians.

(With AP inputs)