Suicide Bomber Hits Sri Lankan Army Camp

The Associated Press
Tuesday, March 27, 2007; 1:44 AM

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka -- A Tamil Tiger rebel drove an explosive-laden tractor to a military camp in eastern Sri Lanka early Tuesday, drawing fire from guards and triggering a blast at the entrance, military officials said. At least seven people, including the bomber, were killed.

The attack came a day after the rebels used at least one small propeller plane to bomb a Sri Lankan air force base outside the capital in the separatists' first airstrike since they started their homeland campaign in 1983. Three airmen were killed in that attack and 16 were wounded.

The tractor attack Tuesday took place in the Chenkaladi military camp in eastern district of Batticaloa, a hotbed of violence between the rebels and the government.

"Our alert soldiers had detected the tractor and the driver, and had asked the driver to stop. When he ignored, they opened fire," Samarasinghe said. The tractor subsequently exploded, he said.

There was no immediate comment from the rebels and phone calls to their headquarters in Kilinochchi remained unanswered.

The insurgent, two soldiers guarding the gate and four civilians were killed in the blast and four people were wounded, said military spokesman Brig. Prasad Samarasinghe.

The four civilians were members of a pro-government Tamil political party, Eelam People's Democratic Party, which has its office next to the military camp, party spokesman Stephen Peiris said. The party renounced violence and joined the political mainstream in 1987.

Two soldiers guarding the military camp and two policemen guarding the Tamil party office were wounded in the attack.

The Tigers launched their fight to create an independent homeland for the country's 3.1 million minority Tamils after decades of discrimination by the majority Sinhalese. A Norway-brokered cease-fire signed in 2002 slowed the violence, but hostilities spiked again in late 2005, with more than 4,000 fighters and civilians killed in the last 15 months, according to European cease-fire monitors.

An estimated 65,000 people were killed in fighting before the cease-fire. While both sides have not officially withdrawn from the cease-fire, soaring violence has rendered the agreement valid only on paper.

© 2007 The Associated Press