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Chronology of LTTE terror: - Part 16

From the Daily News Archives


When the euphoria of victory dies down, and together with it the media hype ceases, when the guns do not rattle and boom anymore, and the sky, the land and the sea become calm and serene, when tranquillity reigns through it is natural to live in the present moment and forget the past. But one cannot live in the present without a past. Nor can one envision the future discarding the experience of the preceding events. Hence the Daily News is serialising the Chronicle of LTTE Terror taken from our own archives which would remind our readers how it all began. An awareness of the chronology of terror would help us prevent the recurrence of such terror and frustrate any attempts by misguided elements to repeat history to suit their evil designs. It was not simple terror. Nor was terror sporadic. It was all pre-planned, pre-determined, well-calculated terror. The victims were innocent people. Though it is too many innumerate we would like to recall the major episodes in the Chronology of Terror.

Twin explosions that rocked Trincomalee

June 12, 1986 was a Wednesday in the sweltering sun of the Trincomalee town people moved about their usual business about the town and there was nothing special happening. Some people from suburban districts and remote villages came into this town for various needs and tourists still came sight seeing especially to view the great natural harbour named by the British as Trincomalee but its earlier name was Trikonamalaya 'The triangle of hills" as the harbour was really divided into three with three promontories though it had the largest mass of water and was one of the deepest and large natural harbours of the world.

On this day suddenly the town and the harbour was rocked with the reports of two huge explosions the second taking place one minute after the first. It was on the inner harbour road that the two explosions went off in two CTB buses. One bus was bound for Colombo and the other for Kantale. The first shock over the police and the armed forces rushed to the scene and scores of people were lying in pools of blood while four or five people were propelled out of the buses into the sea as the road ran adjascent to the sea.

When the police and some of the bystanders rushed to the two buses at the first count they found 20 people dead and about 80 people injured, some of them critically. The injured were rushed to the hospital but later two more people succumbed to their injuries.

The year 1986 was the time that the Tamil terrorist groups were trying to wrest leadership among themselves while the government of Sri Lanka that had botched the whole issue especially after 1983 was blowing hot and cold with India at times seeking the assistance of the good neighbour to bring the terrorists groups to book or get them to agree to some negotiations aimed at placating them. Though President Jayewardene and the Minister of Security Lalith Athulathmudali were trying to grapple with the problem it was becoming too ramified and too violent for an easy resolution.

The continued killings of civilians always unarmed was the method attempted by all the Tamil terrorist groups and on this day two time bombs had been planted in the two CTB buses that were carrying only civilians. Among the dead were 18 women and children and among the injured were more than 20 women and children of all three communties, Sinhalese,Tamils and Muslims As the very first reports of the tragedy was out they said there were some foreign tourists in the two buses but there were only locals in both buses. Though we got condemnations from India and other countries immediately after the bomb attack that killed 22 people the patron of the terrorists the Congress Government of India had not yet decided to look at our problem as one they had created. India of course was to learn that she was wrong and paid a very high price for supporting the terrorists who were at that time commonly known as Tigers.

Twenty two dead, toll may run higher:

Time bombs explode as buses leave central depot:

Trincomalee bleeds after terrorist attacks

In a savage attack on helpless civilians, the Tamil terrorists yesterday blew-up two CTB buses within two minutes of each other in Inner Harbour Road in Trincomalee, killing and wounding over eighty people.

Although the first reports placed the death toll at 15. National Security Minister Lalith Athulathmudali told a meeting in Colombo last evening that 22 people had died and the final tally may be even higher.

The minister said that the dead included Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims, ordinary people savagely struck down by terrorist bombs. He said there were foreign passengers in the buses attacked but there was no word on whether they were among the victims.

There was some confusion about the exact number killed with Rupavahini placing the death toll at 18 in its 8 p.m. newscast. A senior police officer who left Trincomalee at 3.30 p.m. confirmed 17 dead but by last night a senior military officer said the figure was "around 22."

A 12-hour curfew effecting from 5 p.m. yesterday till 5 a.m. today was clamped over the harbour town whose morning peace was shattered by the two blasts which wrecked the two crowded buses.

"It's a miracle that anybody emerged alive," a witness who viewed the twisted metal that remained said.

"Some of the victims were blown into the sea," a senior army officer said in Colombo.

A policeman who was on the scene said that upto ten kilos of explosives would have been used to produce blasts as powerful as yesterday's.

Among the first victims to be identified was Constable Fernando of the Trincomalee police, travelling on leave to his home in Katana. Four other off-duty policemen travelling in the two buses had also been hurt and flown to the Sri Jayewardenepura hospital.

Dr. R. C. Rajapakse, the hospital's director, said they were out of danger.

A senior military officer said that many Tamils were among the victims.

Lt. Gen. Cyril Ranatunge, Joint Operations Commander, was in the harbour town in personal charge of operations including containing any possible backlash.

The blasts rocked the town minutes after the two buses - one to Colombo and the other to Kantalai began their journeys about of the Central Transport Depot at about 9.45 a.m.

Doctors and medical supplies were flown to Trincomalee with the first news of the attack reaching Colombo. Forty of the injured had been flown to the hospitals in Colombo and Sri Jayewardenepura and eight to the A'pura hospital. The rest who were being treated at the Trincomalee hospital were either too critical to be moved, or had suffered only minor injuries.

The bombs were timed-devices and are believed to have been placed inside the buses when passengers began boarding them. The explosions occurred on Inner Harbour Road, when the buses were 200 yards from each other.

The Colombo-bound bus was directly opposite the office of the Superintendent of Police.

Our Trincomalee correspondent said the usually busy town was deserted after the incident, with offices and commercial areas putting up shutters and school children being sent home.

He said the buses were total wrecks.

The latest terrorist strike is the seventh bomb attack since the Airlanka Tristar was blasted at Katunayake on May 3.

Fifty three men, women and children were killed and nearly 250 seriously wounded in the previous attacks, which included a bomb blast in a passenger train at Veyangoda on May 31.

The other explosions were at the CTO (May 16), Ceylon Cold Stores (May 30), Dematagoda Railway yard (June 6). in the picture

One of the victims of the Trincomalee explosions is wheeled into the Colombo General Hospital's accident service. Twenty seven victims were also admitted.

Shocked survivors describe nightmare

In deep shock and obvious pain, survivors of the explosions yesterday strove to recount details of the tragedy which had robbed a number of them of their loved ones, at the Colombo General Hospital yesterday.

Chithra Pushpalatha a young mother and her toddler baby boy lay in the same bed. "I don't know what happened to the other members of my family who were with me", she said, tears filming her eyes.

She settled down in Trincomalee after her husband obtained employment at the Prima Flour Milling complex. Her mother, three children, and brother-in-law had boarded the Colombo-bound express, and the explosion hit the bus minutes after it started on its journey.

"We first heard an explosion and saw smoke billowing from the bus ahead of us. Our bus came to a halt, and there was another explosion. I found myself trapped in the wreckage and managed to extricate myself. I saw my son lying unconscious a few yards away. I don't know what happened to the others,".

Sunil Gamini Monnekulame (32) had a choice of making the journey to Colombo in Kachcheri jeep, or by bus. He got into the jeep and then thought better of it and boarded the bus because jeeps were more prone to terrorist attack.

"I made the wrong choice after all", the young man who is an agricultural extension officer said. He had been unconscious for some time and was in pain. Y. M. Tikirbanda the conductor of the Kantalai-bound bus bemoaned the loss of his cremate, driver Hennanayake who was killed by the explosion.

"I am sure the bomb was in the bag someone entrusted to the care of a Buddhist monk who was a passenger in my bus", he said.

The first ambulances began rolling into the Accident Service of the General Hospital which was in complete readiness for this emergency at 5 p.m. yesterday.

"We had the advantage of advance information of their arrival unlike in earlier instances and were geared to meet the emergency", a doctor said.

A total 27 victims were brought in from the Ratmalana airport to which they had been airlifted from Trincomalee.

The hospital was in a state of preparedness to take in more casualties if that was necessary.

Deputy Director-General (Administration) of the Teaching Hospitals Ministry K.D.I. Ratnasena, the Hospital's Director Donald Abeysundera and Administrative officer, H.A. de Silva were on hand to supervise their admission.

Twenty injured in blast near cinema

At least 20 people including women and children were injured in a bomb explosion near the Gaiety Cinema at Kotahena around 8.45p.m. yesterday, police said.

Police said the bomb appeared to have been exploded to catch the crowd streaming out of the cinema after the 6 p.m. show.

A senior official of the Government Analyst's Department who visited the scene said the bomb was a "dashing" type similar to that thrown into a Kotahena kovil last Friday.

S. Hamid, 21, who was hurt in the blast said that he had come for the movie. He suddenly heard a loud blast and found a bleeding injury on his left arm.

A large crowd thronged the scene and police had to bring in reinforcements. IGP Cyril Herath said that citywide checks had been intensified and will continue. Two trishaws parked near the scene were badly damaged.

Tomorrow: MGR and New Delhi fail to convince terrorists

Yesterday: Two villages in Trincomalee attacked (LINK)


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