The horror of Sri Lanka's raging civil war was played out on the outskirts of the capital as 24 people were killed and many more injured when a packed rush-hour bus exploded in a fireball. The attack was blamed on the separatist Tamil Tigers.
Witnesses spoke of scenes of carnage after the blast at a bus depot in the town of Piliyandala just south of the capital, Colombo. The bomb was apparently hidden in a parcel on the overhead rack near the front of the bus. The roof of the vehicle was ripped off in the blast.
"The whole place smelled of explosives, and debris was all over," witness Saranga Sadara, told the Associated Press. "Everyone began running in panic."
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack but the Sri Lankan authorities blamed the Tamil Tigers. Ambulances with sirens wailing flooded to a nearby hospital, where off-duty doctors and nurses ran in to help the injured. One hospital was so overwhelmed it stopped accepting more wounded and diverted them to a second medical centre.
The militants have been fighting since 1983 to create an independent homeland for minority Tamils, who have been marginalised by successive governments controlled by Sri Lanka's Sinhalese majority. At least 70,000 people have been killed in the violence.
The attack was the first major bombing since a suicide bomber killed 14 people, including a government minister and a former Olympic athlete, at the start of a marathon on 16 April.
It was the worst bus attack since January when suspected rebels bombed a bus in the remote southern town of Buttala and shot dead 32 fleeing passengers.Reuse content