Colombo suicide blast kills nine civilians, over 100 wounded

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Colombo, Feb 3 (UNI) At least nine civilians were killed and over 100 wounded when a suspected Tamil Tiger suicide cadre blew herself up at a crowded railway station here this afternoon, military and hospital sources said.

''We have got 100 wounded people admitted to the hospital after the blast at the railway station. Of them nine people are pronounced dead by now,'' Senior Director of the Accidental Service of the Colombo National Hospital, Dr Hector Weerasinghe, told UNI over the phone.

Claiming that most of the wounded people were not with life-threatening injuries, he said ''only 12 people are in serious condition and undergoing surgeries.'' Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said the preliminary investigations have revealed that a female suicide cadre, who had got off from a Colombo train, blew herself up inside the Fort Railway Station around 1405 hrs (local time).

The main railway station of the country has now been closed temporarily and reinforcements have been rushed to the area to strengthen security and carry out special checks and investigations.

Earlier in the day, at least four visitors were injured after a suspected hand grenade exploded in Sri Lanka's main zoo at Dehiwela, in the very outskirts of Colombo.

The blast caused panic at the crowded zoo and the authorities temporarily closed the zoo for public to help the police to probe the blast.

Yesterday, 18 civilian passengers were killed and over 50 wounded when a powerful bomb went off inside a packed private bus they were travelling in at Dambulla town in the central Matale district.

The bomb blasts have occurred when the security arrangements throughout the country, mainly in and around the capital city have been stepped up ahead of the 60th Independence Day celebration tomorrow.

The key national event is scheduled to take place at Galle Face Green in the heart of Colombo city, with military parades.

The government, blaming the Tamil Tiger rebels for these blasts, said the rebels were now targeting civilians in the South to divert the attention of the troops from pressing ahead with their onslaught into the rebel-held territories in the northern Wanni region.

UNI XC SKB AS1739

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