At least 20 killed, 50 injured in explosion in Sri Lanka

Other News Materials 2 February 2008 07:59 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa )- At least 20 civilians were killed in a bomb explosion on a passenger bus in central Sri Lanka on Saturday morning, a military spokesman said.

The explosion took place when the bus was in the bus stand at Dambulla , 148 kilometres north of the capital, Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said.

More than 50 people were injured in the blast, at least 10 seriously and were being transferred to two other hospitals in large towns, hospital sources said.

The bus was mainly carrying Buddhists heading for religious programmes in the north central town of Anuradhapura .

The town where the explosion took place is one of the central locations used by tourists passing through to visit ancient ruins in north central Sri Lanka and the world famous rock fortress at Sigiriya , 20 kilometres north of Dambulla .

No tourists in the area were harmed, though hotels cautioned them to refrain from traveling for a few hours after the incident.

The blast comes ahead of the country's 60th anniversary of independence to be marked in Colombo on February 4 and four days after 17 minority Tamils, including 11 school children, were killed when a passenger bus was caught up in a roadside bomb within a rebel- controlled area in northern Sri Lanka.

Tamil rebels blamed the army's deep penetration unit for infiltrating the area and carrying out the attack, but the government has denied the claim. Most of the victims were displaced persons living in refugee camps in a historic Catholic church at Madu , 280 kilometres north of the capital.

The government on January 16 pulled out from a Norwegian-backed truce with the rebels. The truce, signed in February 2002, had been defunct for the past two years with fighting between the two sides escalating. More than 5,800 have been killed so far.

In Colombo security has been stepped as the government has planned elaborate arrangements to mark the 60th anniversary of independence from the British. A military parade has been organized to mark the event.