"Terrorism" dominates Sri Lanka's 60th anniversary

Society Materials 4 February 2008 11:05 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa vowed Monday to intensify efforts to defeat "terrorism" and recapture Tamil rebel-controlled areas in the northern part of the country, amidst stepped-up rebel attacks in the south.

President Rajapaksa, in an address to the nation to mark the 60th anniversary of independence, said "terrorists" (Tamil rebels) were suffering an unprecedented defeats at the hands of the military in the latest phase of the nearly three-decade-old ethnic conflict.

"In two years we have been able to liberate the eastern province and confine the terrorist to two districts in the north," said Rajapaksa, who was elected president two years ago.

"Defeat of the most powerful terrorist organizations in the world would also be a victory for the international community," Rajapaksa said.

Tamil rebels have stepped up attacks in the southern part of the country in an effort to divert attention of the security forces who have launched a series of military operations in the north.

Two hours before the main independence celebrations presided over by Rajapaksa, a minor explosion close to an electrical transformer outside Sri Lanka's capital was reported.

The transformer was damaged in Mt Lavinia, 12 kilometres south of Colombo. Police said they believe 200 grams of explosives had been used in the blast, in which no one was injured.

The incident came as the police discovered a roadside claymore mine fixed to a telephone booth overnight, also near Colombo.

Police and soldiers have been deployed in key strategic positions, and strict security procedures were being maintained in and around the capital in view of the independence celebration in the city with a military parade presided over by President Rajapaksa.

Island-wide events also were being held to mark Sri Lanka's 1948 independence from Britain.

Security was further tightened after an explosion Sunday at Colombo's main railway station in which a Tamil rebel female suicide bomber killed 13 people and injured more than 100.

Police investigations found the woman had arrived in a train, had gotten off and was trying to make her way out of the station. However, a search operation had been launched inside the station, and she then appeared to have triggered the explosion.

As a security precaution, all text messages on mobile phones were suspended Monday morning until the main independence day celebrations are over at midday.

Almost all ministers, armed forces commanders and politicians were attending the ceremony, and strict security was being maintained along the access roads for the event at Galle Face, a seafront close to the president's house.

More than 100 civilians have been killed since the government withdrew from a truce on January 16. Tamil separatist rebels have stepped up attacks on civilian targets outside the ethnic minority's population base in northern and eastern Sri Lanka.