|LTTE bid to kill Pak
envoy, Indian cricketers safe in Colombo
* Seven killed, eight wounded
Colombo, August 14
Pakistan’s top diplomat here today escaped unhurt in a powerful explosion triggered by the LTTE, believed to be angry over Islamabad’s arms support to Sri Lanka, killing seven people, including four of his security guards and wounding eight others.
A claymore mine attached to an autorickshaw went off when the convoy of Bashir Wali Mohamed was passing near Liberty Plaza roundabout, 3 km from the hotel where Indian cricket team is staying. The cricketers were in their rooms in Hotel Taj Samudra when the explosion took place and they were all safe, the team’s media manager Rajan Nair told PTI.
The attack came even as the LTTE said 61 schoolchildren and 15 civilians were killed in two separate air raids by Sri Lankan forces in the island’s embattled north-east.
The police said three bystanders were also killed and eight wounded in the Colombo attack, the first such targeting a foreign diplomat, which took place less than 200m from President Mahinda Rajapakse’s Temple Trees residence.
The authorities said despite the attack, the tri-series tournament in which Indian team is playing would go ahead. The Sri Lankan government said the bombing was the work of the LTTE.
Mohamed was passing through the Kollupitiya area after attending a ceremony to mark Pakistan’s Independence Day when the blast occurred. “The High Commissioner is safe. He was in the area but he was not caught in it,” High commission press attache Suriya Jamal said, adding that his car was slightly hit.
Analysts pointed out that the attack could be because of Pakistan’s help to Sri Lankan government by providing arms, which the security forces are using against the LTTE.
Islamabad had supplied multi-barrel rocket launchers which helped Colombo fight rebel offensives after India refused to give weapons to be used in the anti-LTTE operations.
Pakistan has been a long-time supplier of weapons to the Sri Lankan armed forces and has an intelligence-sharing arrangement with the authorities here.
Mohamed, a former chief of the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI, was due to return to Islamabad shortly, government sources said.
The Sri Lankan government condemned the attack, the first targeting a foreign diplomat.
“We condemn this terrorist attack in the strongest possible terms,” media Minister Anura Yapa said, pointing a finger at the LTTE. “The terrorists are getting desperate.”
The attack in Colombo came even as the Tigers said that the Sri lankan airforce had bombed an orphanage in rebel- held Mullaitivu area and killed 61 children and wounded 150.
The government denied that it hit children and said the target was an LTTE training centre.
Pakistan, which condemned the attack, said that initial information provided by Sri Lankan officials showed that Mohamed was the target.
Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam said in Islamabad that the explosives were detonated by a timer placed in an autorickshaw. She, however, refused to speculate on the motive for the attack.
The explosion comes almost a week after an assassination attempt was made on a former Tamil parliamentarian and Saturday’s slaying of a top Tamil government official involved in the peace process.
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