LTTE Terrorists Attack Holy Shrine

A LTTE Terrorist suicide squad crashed through roadblocks and set off a truck bomb outside a fabled Buddhist temple in central Kandy on Sunday, killing 11 people and wounding 23. The attack occurred days before the ancient capital is due to mark 50 years of independence in Sri Lanka on February 4 with celebrations to be attended by Britain's Prince Charles and other foreign dignitaries. Charles is scheduled to arrive in Sri Lanka on February 3.

The truck exploded opposite the sacred Temple of the Tooth, mainly Buddhist Sri Lanka's holiest shrine which houses a sacred tooth of Lord Buddha. The tooth relic was safe. "A powerful bomb exploded opposite Dalada Maligawa (Temple of the Tooth) in Kandy today at 6.10 a.m. (0010 GMT),'' a defence ministry statement said. "A suicide squad of the LTTE had proceeded in a lorry along Raja Veediya (road) and had fired at the roadblocks. The lorry crashed through the gate and exploded in front of the Dalada Maligawa,'' it said.

The entrance and the roof of Dalada Maligawa were damaged in the blast, but the inner chamber was intact, it added. The blast shattered windows of houses as far as half a mile (800 metres) away, residents said. "There was a serious security lapse, but it is nearly difficult to check when explosives are hidden,'' Deputy Defence Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte said.

The ministry said eight civilians were also killed in the blast. A two-year-old girl was among the dead, the director of Kandy General Hospital said. The hospital and the ministry said 23 people, including four women, a police constable and a Buddhist monk, had been wounded. Two were in serious condition. The dead included the three Tamil terrorists.
A government spokesman said there were no plans to cancel the independence celebrations in Kandy. "This desperate terrorist attack will not alter in any manner the plans of the government and the people of Sri Lanka to celebrate the 50th anniversary of independence as scheduled in the city of Kandy,'' the spokesman said. But the damage to the temple was extensive and it was unlikely it could be repaired in time for the celebrations. "The feeling is one of outrage. We see it as an attempt to disrupt the celebrations and provoke a backlash. We have to be careful how we tackle the situation", the Kandy Mayor Harindhanath Dhunuwila said.

"We condemn this attack and are asking people to stay calm. We feel the government has failed to secure the city of Kandy and the Dalada Maligawa, the symbol of our history,'' UNP leader Ranil Wickeremasinghe said.

A similar truck bomb explosion in the capital Colombo killed 18 people and injured more than 100 last October. The government blamed the LTTE for that blast.

Kandy was tense as hundreds of protesting youths waving national flags took to the streets and urged people to come and guard the temple. Riot police had set up barricades to prevent any outbreak of violence.

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