Twin blasts kills 61 civilians in CTB bus

*Villagers on their way to attend funeral

* Single largest blast since CFA

*Catholic Church expresses shock

*Sampur, Mullaitivu LTTE positions attacked

by Norman Palihawadana

International condemnation was focused on the LTTE as it blasted a state owned bus with powerful claymore mines killing 61 and injuring 40 passengers seriously yesterday morning.

The incident occurred at 7.50 AM near the remote hamlet of Kongollewa. The commuters were all from the village of Yakawewa from where they boarded the CTB bus bound for Kebithigollewa and from there they were to proceed to Kachchikudi in Vavuniya to attend a funeral of a home guard killed by the LTTE.

Two Buddhist monks also died in the blast.

Speaking to The Island from the Kebitigollawa Hospital, a survivor, N. Dissanayake said that there were over 100 passengers in the ill-fated bus and they were heading for the funeral of his nephew in Vavuniya. He also said among the men, women, children and Buddhist monks in the bus there were also about 15 home guards.

"I was standing on the foot board of the overcrowded bus when there were two huge explosions. The bus was thrown a distance of about 25 to 30 meters. That is all I remember", he added.

Military spokesman Brig. Prasad Samarasinghe said that was the single largest incident in which so many people had been killed and injured since the ceasefire agreement was signed with the LTTE in 2002.

At yesterdays Cabinet press briefing Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa said that the matter had been conveyed to the Tokyo Co-Chairs and the government was awaiting their response. He appealed to the people not get provoked by the brutal terrorist attacks and help defeat their evil intention of creating trouble.

The United National Party promptly condemned the incident and SLMM said they had sent a team to the place of the incident and they would soon issue a statement.

The Catholic Church too expressed shock. In a statement Bishop of Anurdhapura Rev. Norbert M. Andradi said that he was shocked and saddened on hearing the news of the unwanted brutal attack on civilian life and condemned the attack on innocent civilians in the strongest terms possible. He appealed for calm and restraint and conveyed his deepest sympathies for the affected families.

Following the incident the Sri Lanka Navy launched an artillery barrage on identified LTTE positions in the Sampur area in the Trincomalee district while Sri Lanka Air Force bombed certain LTTE positions in Mullaitivu. Casualties were not known.



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