The United States strongly condemns the attack, says it bears all hallmarks of the LTTE

The United States has strongly condemned the latest LTTE attack on a civilian bus in the Uva Province, which killed twenty three civilians and injured 67, many of them critically. The U.S. Embassy in Colombo issued the following statement of condemnation.

“The United States strongly condemns today’s vicious terrorist attack on a civilian bus in Uva Province that killed at least 24 persons, including many women and children, and injured more than 60 others. We express our condolences to the victims and their families. While no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, it bears all the hallmarks of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.”

President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who unequivocally condemned the LTTE’s savage attacks on a civilian bus plying from Buttala to Okkampitiya, has called on the people of Sri Lanka to be vigilant in the face of provocation by terrorists, remain calm, and assist the security forces in their efforts to eliminate terrorism from Sri Lanka.

He said, “This further act of savagery on the part of the LTTE should attract to it the opprobrium of all in Sri Lanka and abroad concerned about safeguarding democracy and achieving peace in Sri Lanka. This is a brazen demonstration to the whole world of its unchanged commitment to terrorism and the absolute rejection of democracy and all norms of civilized behaviour, in the pursuit of its unacceptable goal of separation, which threatens the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka.”

The President added, “On this occasion, we recall how the LTTE carried out a similar act of savagery at Kebethigollawa on 11th July 2006, killing 67 persons and injuring a similar number. There too, all the victims were innocent civilians including many women and children. It is also sufficient to recall this and many other similar acts of savagery carried out by the LTTE while this agreement was in place, to show that the LTE had at no time respected the Ceasefire Agreement.”

Targeting innocent unarmed civilians has been a hallmark of the savage brutality of LTTE terrorism, from the initial massacres at Kent and Dollar Farms on November 30, 1984, where entire farmer families were hacked to death as they slept.

Over the years, the LTTE has been known to resort to this kind of brutal attacks on civilian targets, diabolically calculated to draw response from the government, and then deny responsibility. Among numerous attacks on unarmed civilians carried out by the LTTE outside conflict areas, are the following:

At least 17 people were killed and another 33 seriously injured when a suspected LTTE parcel bomb went off in a leading clothes shop in a Colombo suburb, on November 28, 2007, hours after the failed LTTE suicide bomb attack on Minister Douglas Devananda’s office. Six people were killed and 31 wounded in a bomb blast near an air force base during the evening rush hour, in the outskirts of Colombo, on May 28, 2007. 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. Two LTTE bomb attacks against civilians in two crowded buses in the western and southern provinces on January 5th and 6th 2007, killed 35 and injured 117 innocent civilians, including women and children. On June 15, 2006, LTTE attacked a crowded bus, triggering two claymore mines that killed people, including 15 children. All these attacks took place with the Ceasefire Agreement in place.

Such brutal attacks took place in the not so recent past as well. 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 at least 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 at least 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 novice Buddhist monks and their mentor the Chief Priest, who were traveling in a bus in Aranthalawa in the Eastern province on June 6, 1987.

Responding to today’s attack, President Rajapaksa said, “On this occasion I call upon all people of Sri Lanka who value democracy, human values and peace to be even more resolute in their determination to rid this country of the menace of terrorism. I also call upon them to be vigilant in the face of provocation by terrorists, remain calm, and give all assistance to the security forces in the exemplary efforts to eliminate terrorism from our land and bring about a genuine and sustainable peace in Sri Lanka.”

It is indeed vigilance on the part of law enforcement authorities that led to two significant detections of explosive-laden freezer trucks the LTTE was moving to Colombo. On June 8, 2007, prompt action on the part of an alert police officer in Nikaweratiya in the North Central Province, led to the detection of the biggest ever haul of explosives in a truck, powerful explosives weighing over two tons. On June 29, 2007, C-4 explosives weighing over 2.2 tons, wired to a freezer truck coming from a fishing village in Trincomalee, was seized.

President Rajapaksa said, “These acts of savagery by the LTTE once again exposes its total commitment to violence and terror, despite the many attempts made to show that it stands for peace in Sri Lanka. It appears that this attack has been carried out to coincide with the abrogation of the Ceasefire Agreement, which comes into effect today. The terrorists of the LTTE may be attempting by these acts of savagery to show Sri Lankans and the world that it is the decision of the government to abrogate the Ceasefire Agreement that is the immediate cause for this carnage caused by it.

Meanwhile, referring to the abrogation of the Ceasefire Agreement and the international community’s concern over that decision, Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe, in a response to a statement issued by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Louise Arbour, said, today, “The Government of Sri Lanka remains conscious of the need to resolve the country’s ethnic conflict through political and constitutional means.”

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

16 January 2008

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