M A I N   N E W S

Top Lankan General assassinated

Colombo, June 26
A suspected Tamil Tiger suicide bomber today rammed an explosive-laden motor cycle against the car of a top Sri Lankan army general, killing him along with three others on the outskirts of the capital, giving a further jolt to the faltering peace process.

Maj-Gen Parami Kulatunga, who is the third-highest ranking officer in the army, was traveling to work when the suicide bomber banged his motor cycle against the officer's car at Pannipityita, a suburb of Colombo, during the morning rush hour traffic.

The General, two soldiers and a bystander were killed instantly. The suicide bomber's body was torn into pieces.

Eight persons were injured in the attack and hospitalised.

Kulatunga's car took the full impact of the blast and immediately caught fire, the police said. His bodyguards had no time to react.

Military spokesman Prasad Samarasinghe said the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) carried out the attack although there was no response from the guerrillas. Kulatunga is the senior most army officer to be killed in Sri Lanka's drawn out Tamil separatist campaign.

Two Major-Generals had been killed before him, but they were junior to him in rank at the time of their assassinations.

Two months ago, Tamil Tiger rebels carried out a suicide bomb attack against army chief Sarath Fonseka inside the army complex in Colombo leaving 11 dead. Fonseka is now in Singapore undergoing treatment.

Meanwhile, passengers in a pick-up truck, a three-wheel taxi and a van were taken to hospital when their vehicles were also hit by the bomb, which the police said was probably rigged up on a cycle parked on the side of the road.

The attack came as the LTTE rejected a peace overture by President Mahinda Rajapakse for a direct deal with the guerrillas.

The President had sent a message to the LTTE seeking a two-week truce over and above the Norwegian arranged ceasefire that is collapsing. The LTTE said they were opposed to any direct dealings with the Colombo Government and insisted working through peace broker Norway.

The LTTE's political wing leader S.P.Tamilselvan, said they were also concerned that Scandinavians would halt their truce monitoring work following a meeting scheduled for June 29 in Oslo.

The meeting was called by Oslo after the LTTE objected to three countries, Sweden, Finland and Denmark being in the monitoring mission after these three countries outlawed the LTTE last month. PTI




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