Bomb kills party leader

COLOMBO (Reuter, AP) - A suicide bomber killed up to 50 people, including the Sri Lankan opposition leader, Gamini Dissanayake, and wounded 300 at a presidential election rally yesterday.

President Dingiri Banda Wijetunga declared an indefinite curfew nationwide and the presidential election was indefinitely postponed. The armed forces were put on alert to prevent riots.

'It was a human bomb,' a senior military officer said. 'There was a person in the crowd in the second or third row who had explosives. Then there was a blast which was carried forward towards the stage.'

The government indefinitely postponed a second round of peace talks with Tamil rebels following the attack, in a suburb of Colombo. The attack took place shortly after Mr Dissanayake, 52, the opposition's candidate in the presidential election on 9 November, addressed the crowd. The general secretary of Mr Dissnayake's United National Party, Gamini Wijesekera, and two former ministers were among the dead. 'Dissanayake died on admission to hospital,' police said. A hospital official said there were 50 dead at the mortuary.

Mr Dissanayake was the main challenger to the Prime Minister, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, for the presidency. He had just finished speaking around midnight when the bomb exploded. 'He spoke for about 15 minutes at about 12.15am and returned to his seat when the explosion occurred,' said a journalist at the meeting. The journalist said he saw about 15 people lying dead on the platform. 'I saw Dissanayake and others being taken away in cars,' he said.

Police could not say who was responsible for the attack, but suspicion pointed to Tamil guerrillas. President Ranasinghe Premadasa and another top opposition leader, Lalith Athulathmudali, who led a breakaway group from the UNP with Mr Dissanayake in 1991, were killed by suspected Tamil rebels in May and April last year.

On Friday, a bomb was flung at Mr Dissanayake's residence at Kandy. No one was hurt. The opposition leader recently said that he was under threat from Tamil guerrillas and his security had been intensified.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?