Lankan top minister among 12 killed in blast

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Colombo, Apr 6 (UNI) Sri Lankan top Cabinet Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle and eleven others were killed while scores were wounded when a powerful bomb went off at Weliweriya in the Gampaha district this morning, police here said.

The Highways Minister was attending a function to mark the forthcoming Sinhala and Tamil New Year when the powerful bomb went off.

''According to latest reports, at least twelve people were killed and over 90 injured in the explosion,'' the Defence Ministry said, adding that the wounded have been rushed to the nearby Gampaha hospital.

''Fernandopulle was also among the many killed in the cowardly LTTE attack among a large gathering at a 'Hindu-Sinhala' festival event,'' the Ministry report said, adding that the late Minister was about to wave a flag to start a marathon race when the bomb went off.

Security arrangements have been tightened in the area and the police was conducting further inquiries into the blast.

Meanwhile, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in a statement, has strongly condemned the attack on his senior minister and the civilians.

''Fernandopulle was a popular representative of the people, elected by the voters of Gampaha District at several elections. The assassination of such a committed democrat once again shows the total contempt of the LTTE for the democratic process and its unquestioned commitment to violence and terror to achieve its narrow and limited objectives that are far removed from the interests of the Tamil people of Sri Lanka,'' he said.

''While calling on the people to be calm and collected in the face of such extreme provocation by the forces of terror, I wish to reiterate that this dastardly act will not weaken our resolve to eradicate terrorism from our midst and bring peace, harmony and democracy to all our people, which was also the constant and unqualified wish of Fernandopulle,'' the President added.

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