Bears hallmark of LTTE; 16 Dead, 25 injured, mostly women and children

A bomb ripped through a crowded civilian bus as it stopped at a military checkpoint near the town of Konduwattuvan, Ampara, in eastern Sri Lanka, on April 2, 2007, killing 16 civilians and wounding 25 others, mostly women and children. The bombing, which has the trade mark of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), also known as Tamil Tigers, is the latest atrocity in a week of violence that also saw the first aerial attack by the LTTE. The security forces had captured several LTTE strongholds in Batticaloa and Ampara districts, during March 2007.

The Tamil Tigers have allegedly exploded a bomb in the bus, an accusation they deny. The Tamil Tigers also denied involvement in exploding bombs inside two civilian buses in the western and southern provinces, killing 35 and wounding 117, including women and children, on January 5th and 6th, 2007. Plastic explosives had been placed inside the two buses and defence authorities stated that the Tamil Tigers are the only group in Sri Lanka known to use plastic explosives. The manner in which the targets were chosen and the attacks ruthlessly executed, bore the hallmark of Tamil Tiger terrorism, as does the present attack.

The Government strongly condemns the massacre of innocent civilians by the LTTE. This bomb attack on civilian passengers in Ampara comes on the heels of the brutal massacre of six Sinhalese workers by the LTTE in Mailambaveli, Eravur, in the east, on the night of April 1, 2007. The workers had been lined up in front of the construction site they were employed in, and shot and hacked to death. These workers were engaged in a tsunami housing project, ‘Village of Hope,’ for orphaned Tamil children in the area, who were under constant threat of being abducted by the LTTE.

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) deplored the civilian casualties caused by the bomb attack on the civilian bus. Toon Vandenhove, the ICRC’s head of delegation in Colombo, said, “The ICRC is deeply concerned about the rising number of civilians being injured or killed as a result of deliberate attacks in Sri Lanka’s escalating violence. In recent months, men, women and children taking no part whatever in the hostilities have been the victims of shells and bombs.”

The Tamil Tigers generally target civilians, especially the Sinhalese, with the intention of instigating a communal backlash to achieve their political agenda and to discredit the government. Furthermore, when the Tamil Tigers experience setbacks, as they are currently experiencing in the north and the east, they engage in atrocities of this nature to deflect the attention of the government and to ease the pressure on themselves.

Over the years, the LTTE has been known to resort to this kind of attacks on civilian targets, and then deny responsibility for such atrocities. Among numerous attacks on civilians carried out by Tamil Tigers outside the conflict areas, were the following: on June 15, 2006, a Tamil Tiger claymore mine attack on a passenger bus, killed 68 and injured 60. On March 5, 1998, the LTTE exploded a bomb in a bus outside a train station in a busy commercial area in the capital Colombo, killing at least 50 civilians and wounding 250, including children. On July 24, 1996, the LTTE exploded two powerful bombs onboard a crowded passenger train in the suburbs of Colombo, killing at least 70 civilians and injuring over 400. On April 10, 1992, the LTTE exploded a bomb in a bus in Ampara in the east, killing at least 25 and injuring 33. There have been numerous other attacks, where the LTTE forcibly stopped passenger buses and selectively massacred Muslims and Sinhalese passengers. One such instance was the massacre of 33 young Buddhist priests and their mentor the Chief Priest, who were traveling in a bus in Aranthalawa in the Eastern province on June 6, 1987. On April 16, 1987, LTTE cadres shot dead 127 Sinhalese civilians and 31 police and security force personnel, traveling in buses to Trincomalee, in the east.

The government has reiterated that LTTE terror attacks will not deter its efforts to find a political solution to the conflict in Sri Lanka or its measures to defeat terrorism and restore normalcy in the country.

Following the LTTE attacks on civilian buses in January 2007, both the United States and the United Nations condemned the atrocity. The US stated that such attacks deliberately targeting civilians are clear acts of terrorism and that twenty-five years of terrorism have not improved the lives of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

03 April 2007

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