Sri Lankan President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga was slightly injured today when an assassin detonated explosives strapped to his body at an election rally here.
The blast occurred as the president's guards dragged away the suicide bomber. Fourteen people--including a top police officer in charge of the president's security--were killed, and 110 others were injured.
Minutes later, another bomb exploded at an election rally of the opposition United National Party, killing at least seven people and injuring 40 others, police said.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blasts, but suspicion fell on the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels, who are fighting for a homeland and oppose Kumaratunga. Fifteen people were later arrested, police said.
The bomb that injured Kumaratunga exploded as she was about to get into her car outside Colombo's town hall after addressing a rally of her People's Alliance party before Tuesday's presidential election. The assassin, who had dressed himself like a woman in a sari, tried to embrace Kumaratunga. Guards dragged him several feet before he detonated the explosive, an officer said.
"She is hurt, but she is out of danger," government minister Batty Weerakoon said. "Her face was hit by the blast, but she is okay." The president was admitted to a private hospital and doctors operated to remove shrapnel from her face, an official said. She also reportedly sustained an eye injury.
The blast at the rally of the main opposition party at Jaela, nine miles north of Colombo, also was set off by a suicide bomber, police said. The president's main rival, Ranil Wickremesinghe, was not present at that rally.
Kumaratunga came to power in 1994 on a promise to end the war. A year later, she held talks with the rebels, but they broke off talks and called off their cease-fire. Since then, security forces have been fighting the rebels. The conflict has left more than 55,000 people dead since 1983.
In recent weeks, the Tigers have made considerable gains, overrunning more than 100 villages in areas held by the army and moving close to a military base in the northern Elephant Pass area.
Sri Lanka has a history of election violence. In 1994, a presidential candidate and 51 others were killed at a rally and an explosion in 1993 killed President Ranasinghe Premadasa. Both attacks were blamed on the Tamil rebels.