21 killed by bomb attack in Colombo

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The Independent Online

At least 21 people were killed and 46 were injured yesterday when a bomb exploded in the commercial centre of the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, during the evening rush hour.

At least 21 people were killed and 46 were injured yesterday when a bomb exploded in the commercial centre of the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, during the evening rush hour.

Police believe a suicide bomber set off the explosion prematurely and had intended to attack a motorcade of government ministers and political leaders that had been expected to pass by later.

Gunfire could be heard from the cordoned-off Borella area, the commercial hub of Colombo, up to an hour after the explosion. At least 50 soldiers took up positions to try to capture the attackers, as helicopters circled the area. "I saw five armed men running," said a witness. "They threatened everyone and kept on running."

Five of the dead were police, said police officials. The blast damaged up to 30 vehicles. Mutilated human remains and two rocket-propelled grenade launchers were found near the centre of the explosion.

There were no claims of responsibility, but a military spokesman blamed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who have been fighting for 17 years for a separate homeland in the north of the island.

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