LTTE Terrorists Attack Holy Shrine
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.|
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
"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.
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.