M A I N   N E W S

Lankan minister killed in suicide blast
Chandani Kirinde writes from Colombo

A powerful Sri Lankan minister was today assassinated by suspected LTTE rebels in a suicide attack on a marathon opening. The killing of Jeyraj Fernandopulle, a Cabinet minister and close confidant of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, by a suspected Tamil rebel suicide cadre on Sunday may win more support for the government’s military drive against the rebels but is also likely to further increase violence in the country.

Minister Fernandopulle and 14 civilians were killed when the suicide bomber blew himself up at Weliweriaya, 19 km northeast of Colombo. The minister was there as the chief guest of the opening ceremony of the road marathon and was about to flag off the event when the blast occured.

Fernandopulle, who was also the Chief Government Whip in Parliament, has been at many times the lone voice speaking in defence of the government on issues such as the escalating cost of living, corruption etc.

The minister, who has been high on the LTTE hit list was also vocal in his criticism of the LTTE and his terror tactics. His death comes as the military is engaged in fierce fighting with the Tigers in the northern Manner district which has left many soldiers and rebels dead since last week. It is likely that the government’s resolve to move head with the military operations is likely to be further strengthened.

The LTTE has not claimed responsibility for the attack but in most cases where it has carried out political assassinations, the group does not claim responsibility. Among those killed was K.A. Karunarathna, the former national marathon champion and South Asian marathon gold medalist. At least 83 persons were injured in the blast which the government quickly blamed on the LTTE.

Considered as one of the prime targets of the LTTE, Fernandopulle is the second top minister to be killed by the rebels after D.M. Dassanayake, minister for nation building, who died in a bomb blast in the same district on January 8, within days of the government scrapping a tattered ceasefire with the Tamil Tigers.



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