March 10, 2009 / 6:24 AM / 10 years ago

Sri Lanka bombing kills 10, wounds cabinet minister

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By Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez

COLOMBO, March 10 (Reuters) - A suspected Tamil Tiger suicide bomber killed 10 people and wounded 20, including Sri Lanka’s telecommunications minister, during a parade in south of the Indian Ocean island on Tuesday, officials said.

The blast happened near a mosque in Godapitiya in Matara district, about 160 km (100 miles) south of the capital, Colombo, during a festival to celebrate the birthday of the prophet Mohammed.

"Six ministers were there and terrorists used this opportunity to target us. Only one minister, Mahinda Wijesekara, got injured. Seven bodies have been found at the spot," Oil Resources Minister A.H.M. Fowzie told Reuters from the scene.

Wijesekara is minister for post and telecommunications and he was "out of danger", Media Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa said.

A defence spokesman, Lakshman Hullugalle, said 10 people were killed and 20 injured and he blamed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

"It is a suicide blast so it must be the LTTE," he said.

The air force said it had dispatched a helicopter to airlift the critically wounded back to Colombo.

The Tigers are on U.S., EU, Canadian and Indian terrorist lists for their widespread use of suicide bomb tactics during a separatist conflict that has raged off and on since 1983.

The military has cornered the Tigers in about 45 square km (20 sq miles) of the northeastern and is confident of defeating them as a conventional force in a short period.

But the Tigers have always had the capacity to strike far from the war zone using unconventional tactics, and analysts say they expect that to continue. (Writing by Bryson Hull; Editing by David Fox)

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