Kandy Returns To Normality As More Details About The Attack Emerge
Life slowly returned to normal in the ancient capital Kandy on Monday as condemnation rained on the Tamil Tiger terrorists attack on Sri Lanka's holiest shrine. Shops and offices reopened and traffic was heavy, but hundreds of soldiers and policemen had cordoned off the Temple of the Tooth and set up checkpoints in and around the central Sri Lankan city.
A Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) suicide squad crashed through roadblocks and set off a truck bomb outside the historic temple on Sunday, killing 13 people and wounding 23. The dead included the three-person suicide squad. "We have strengthened security in Kandy with additional mobile patrols and several new road blocks. We think the area is secure," said R.A.D. Tibbotuwawa, the assistant superintendent of police in Kandy.
Dozens of foreign tourists were seen walking around the city, while small crowds of people had gathered to look at the damaged Temple from across a lake. "I don't think I will be going to the temple, but otherwise I can go around anywhere in Kandy. I feel safe," said Jurgen Plau, a German tourist in Kandy. Tibbotuwawa said the temple had been sealed off because reconstruction work was being carried out by soldiers and other government agencies. 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.
The government said there were no plans to cancel the independence celebrations in Kandy. Condemnation of the attack came from all quarters. "No one in his senses would have thought of perpetrating such a crime, which is not only against the Buddhists but against every citizen of this country whatever his religion or race may be," said the Archbishop of Colombo in a statement. "Not even in the darkest moments of Sri Lanka's 2,000-year history has such an act of destruction been perpetrated against the very symbol of our civilisation and history," said opposition leader Ranil Wickremasinghe in a statement. The truck bomb exploded opposite the Temple, which houses a sacred tooth of Lord Buddha. The entrance and the roof of the Dalada Maligawa were damaged by the blast, but the inner chamber where the tooth relic is kept was intact. Buildings within a radius of more than five kilometres in the city had been damaged while almost all glass panes were broken. The sound of the explosion was heard about six to seven miles off Kandy.
At the site of the explosion opposite the Maligawa entrance a chassis and some parts of the exploded vehicle, a T-56 gun, some grenades and parts have been found. Among the bodies found on the spot were of two terrorists clad in sarong and also a head of a body of a woman with long hair near the main entrance to the Maligawa. Troops have recovered three bodies of terrorists and eight bodies of civilians. Twenty three injured civilians have been evacuated to the Kandy Hospital for treatment. Troops also recovered three suicide jackets, two T 56 weapons, one disposable RPG, two intercom radio sets and 10 rounds of 40mm ammunition from the scene of the incident.
This was the first time the LTTE terrorists has attacked holiest Buddhist shrine, but in May 1985, the rebels killed 150 people in the sacred north-central town of Anuradhapura and damaged a century-old Bo tree that is said to have grown from a sapling of the tree under which Lord Buddha attained nirvana.
The Diyawadana Nilama Neranjan Wijeyeratne summed up the feelings of most people when he said "this was a barbaric and inhuman crime committed by terrorists who claimed to be fighting for liberation. The whole world could see the liberation they had achieved"
|It is believed that the lorry carrying the explosives had come through
King Street passing the main entrance to the President's Pavilion and breaking down the
iron railing road block opposite the Vishnu Devale and driven towards the Dalada Maligawa
entrance where it had exploded. On sighting the lorry coming towards the Maligawa, the
army sentries have fired at it but the terrorists had resisted and driven forward. There
was obviously a serious security lapse for the lorry to get past the check point
and police must now increase security at all their checkpoints to ensure that a terrorist cannot drive through them. again.
Government Officials near the bomb crater