A bomb exploded inside a private bus at
Hikkaduwa yesterday, killing at least 15 and injuring 42. The
incident prompted words of warning from the government for
civilians to be more vigilant than ever to the threat of
The blast occurred around 2.35 pm at Seenigama,
Hikkaduwa, within a bus bound from Colombo to Matara. A witness
said there had been more than 65 passengers inside the vehicle.
The latest incident happened just nineteen hours after six
people died and at least 50 were injured inside a Giriulla-bound
bus at Nittambuwa.
K. P. Mahinda, a nearby resident, told the
Sunday Island that the explosion had occurred at the rear of
the bus. "We went to site immediately afterwards and saw bodies
being taken away," he said via telephone. "On the rear footboard
of the bus was a length of female hair, about eight inches long.
It was not a scalp, just the hair."
Parts of the roof had been blown off in the
blast while windows had shattered. However, unlike the explosion
which occurred at Nittambuwa, the bus had not caught fire.
Ambalangoda police said that the blast was
likely to have been caused by a parcel or similar bomb. Military
Spokesman Brig Prasad Samarasinghe said speculation that a
female suicide bomber had been involved could not be verified
till there was some identification.
Another security officer said it was unlikely
the LTTE would deploy a suicide bomber inside a civilian bus,
commenting that it was more probable for a time bomb to have
been left on board the bus.
"Even in the case of the bomb at Nittambuwa,
there were rumours of a suicide bomber being involved because a
body was found with its arms missing," Brig Samarasinghe said.
"But we have identified all six persons who died in that blast."
Samarasinghe slammed the Tigers over what he
said was "clearly the targeting of innocent civilians". "This is
what they did in the 1980s and early 1990s," he said. "When they
are getting a beating from security forces in the north and
east, they are targeting innocent civilians in the south in
order to trigger a backlash."
He urged civilians not to succumb to Tiger
tactics and also cautioned the public to be more vigilant than
ever about their surroundings.
Police initially took three people in for
questioning but said this figure may change as investigations
Meanwhile, at least 10 people were taken in for
questioning over the bombing of the passenger bus at Nittambuwa.
The Media Centre for National Security says that, according to
initial investigations, the bomb had weight two kilograms and
had been set under a seat. Among the critically injured in the
Nittambuwa incident were two children aged nine and 15.
In the meantime, sponsors of an elaborate
international literary festival to be held in Galle from Tuesday
through Sunday lamented at the latest incident and condoled with
those who lost their lives in the explosions.
"The tragedy and horror of the bombs in buses on
the roads to Kandy and Hikkaduwa, extend beyond their immediate
victims," said Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne, a director of Jetwing
Jetwing Hotels part owns and operates the
Lighthouse Hotel in Galle, one of the eventís venue sponsors.
"Several thousands also suffer in lost
livelihoods as the war drains the economy and tourists stay
away," he pointed out. "The Literary Festival in Galle would
have helped Galle to regain momentum as the southern
riviera of Sri Lanka."
"The bomb in Hikkaduwa will dampen spirits and
add to the misery of a nation mourning the indiscriminate
killing of so innocent people."