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DateLine Wednesday, 11 March 2009

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... and then LTTE:

Suicide blast kills 15 injures 46

*****------

Ministers A. H. M. Fowzie, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardene, Ameer Ali, Pandu Bandaranayake and Chandrasiri Gajadeera escape unhurt

******-------


From left former Southern Province Chief Minister H.G. Sirisena, and Ministers Pandu Bandaranayake, A. H. M. Fowzie, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardene, Chandrasiri Gajadeera, Mahinda Wijesekera and Ameer Ali proceeding to the venue of the celebrations. Picture by Sharman Perera

Fifteen people were killed and another 46, including Posts and Telecommunication Minister Mahinda Wijesekera were injured in a suicide attack which targeted the National Milad-un-Nabi festival at the Jumma Mosque in Godapitiya, Akuressa (Matara District) around 10.30 am yesterday.

Eye witnesses said around 5,000 including several Government Minister’s were proceeding to the Mosque in a procession to attend the main event held in celebration of Prophet Mohommed’s birthday when the suspected LTTE suicide bomber struck.

Minister Wijesekera who was participating in the event as the Guest of Honour was seriously injured in the blast and was later airlifted to Colombo, where he was undergoing emergency surgery at the time of going to press.

Several other Ministers including A. H. M. Fowzie, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardene, Ameer Ali, Pandu Bandaranayake and Chandrasiri Gajadeera who were participating in the procession escaped unhurt.

Minister Fowzie, who was participating in the event as the Chief Guest told over the phone that he was covered in blood and flesh in the aftermath of the blast. Earlier eye witness reports suggested, that he was critically injured. It was found that the Minister was unharmed. Non Cabinet Minister, Ameer Ali commenting on his experience said that he saw a severed head in front of him in the immediate aftermath of the blast.

He admitted that he was numb with shock for a short while due to the blast.

Meanwhile, organising committee member, M.H.Faizal told Nuwan Kodikara (a journalist from our sister paper Dinamina) that he had seen a dark skinned young man wearing a yellow shirt approach the procession after getting down from a bicycle.


Scene of the blast. Picture by Rukmal Gamage .

“He acted in a strange manner. So when he came close to me I grabbed his hand and called a Policeman who was nearby.

But before the officer intervened he got rid of my grip and went forward. Shortly I heard a loud blast, and I was numb with shock. Later when I came to my senses I saw bodies strewn all over the place,” Faizal said.


Minister Mahinda Wijesekera after being brought to the Colombo National Hospital.
Picture by Sudath Malaweera

Another organising committee member, T.M.Nazeer (Pradeshiya Sabha member) said that he had seen a fireball shoot up as he entered the premises where the event was being held. He had also seen Minister Mahinda Wijesekera fall prior to loosing consciousness.

Meanwhile, 42 injured patients had been admitted to Matara hospital following the blast. Another seven and two were seeking treatment at Akuressa and Karapitiya Hospitals.

Akuressa SLFP organiser H.G. Sirisena and Southern PC Minister Manoj Sirisena were also air lifted to Colombo.

Sources said several Provincial Council members and Pradeshiya Sabha members were injured in the explosion.

According to sources, a procession which included around 200 vehicles had started from the Matara Mosque and proceeded to Godapitiya, Akuressa where the main event was scheduled to be held.

At Godapitiya, the Ministers and other Government officials had joined the procession and proceeded to the Mosque premises on foot after exiting their vehicles.

Security authorities had launched a comprehensive investigation.

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