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64 civilians killed in LTTE claymore attack

President disregards security concerns and reaches out to Kebithigollewa victims

15 children killed in Fathers' Day massacre

Kebithigollewa: Sixty four innocent civilians including 15 children were killed and 87 others injured as the LTTE detonated twin claymore mines targeting a jam-packed civilian bus plying from Kanugahawewa to Kebithigollewa yesterday around 8 a.m., Police and Military said.

"Innocent villagers from the Sinhala villages of Yakawewa, Halmillewa, Kanugahawewa, Thalgahawewa and Nikawewa in the far end of the Anuradhapura district were killed in this claymore attack," Acting Kebithigollewa HQI Sarath Kumarasinghe told the Daily News. Fifty eight of them died on the spot. At least 160 persons had been inside the bus.

The LTTE launched twin side-charger claymore mines targeting the civilian Tata CTB bus using a remote control device even after the Army and the homeguards cleared the road around 6.45 a.m., Kumarasinghe said.

"We have firmly established that the Tigers' target was the civilian bus, not any other vehicle," he said.

Meanwhile, President Mahinda Rajapaksa disregarded his security concerns and reached out to Kebithigollawa victims within hours after the LTTE brutally massacred 64 innocent civilians.

An emotional and deeply concerned President, held the hands of a weeping mother and others and assured that the country will take care of them. The latest crime by the LTTE is seen as the most serious violent act perpetrated against civilians by the LTTE since the signing of the Ceasefire Agreement in 2002.

This was the only available bus for these villages to reach Kebithigollewa for their daily needs. Most of them were attending the Kebithigollewa hospital children's clinic.

Some of the dead and injured included students attending tuition classes for the Year 5 Scholarship examination. Among the dead was an extended family of 35 who were going for a funeral in Vavuniya. Around 40 others in the bus were also attending the same funeral.

The driver was killed on the spot while the conductor received injuries, Kumarasinghe said. A Buddhist monk (Ven. Aparekke Suddassa Thera), a homeguard from Yakawewa and a Police Constable were also among those who killed in the incident.

According to Military Spokesman Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe two claymore mines weighing more than 15 kilograms have been used to launch the attack targeting the civilian bus. The bus which was caught in the claymore blast at Ihalawewa area had skipped out of the road and plunged into the nearby paddy field.

The location was three kilometres from the Halmillawetiya Police post.

The bus was a total wreck.

Out of the 87 injured, eight people were airlifted to the Colombo National hospital and 64 people have been admitted to the Anuradhapura General Hospital. Another 15 injured people are undergoing treatment at the Kebithigollewa hospital, Brigadier Samarasinghe added.

The incident came barely two weeks after the LTTE gunned down 13 Sinhala villagers, execution style, in an uncleared area off Welikanda. Nearly 163 civilians have been killed by the LTTE since December 1, 2005.

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