Sri Lanka's Highways Minister killed in bomb blast

Highways Minister Jeyaraj FernandopulleColombo, Apr. 6 : At least 11 people, including a senior Sri Lankan government minister, were killed in a suicide bombing near Sri Lankan capital Colombo on Sunday.

Highways Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle was attending a function to mark the forthcoming Sinhala and Tamil New Year in the western district of Grampaha when he was attacked and killed.

The explosion happened as Mr Fernandopulle was attending a New Year celebration at the Kanthi playground in the town of Weliveriya, 30km (18 miles) outside Colombo.

He was about to wave a flag to start a marathon race when the bomb went off.

Media Minister Anura Yapa described the horrific incident as a suicide bombing.

The director-general of the government's Media Centre for National Security, Lakshman Hulugalle, told the BBC that the minister was killed by the explosion along with many of those around him.

At least 50 people were seriously injured and have been rushed to a local hospital, he added.

The Sri Lankan defence ministry blamed Tamil Tiger rebels, who want an independent state for Sri Lanka's Tamil minority for Fernandopulle's assassination. He is the second minister to have been assassinated this year.

The former minister for nation building, DM Dassanayake, was killed in a bombing on January 8, days after the government pulled out of a crumbling ceasefire with the Tamil Tigers.

The government has since vowed to crush the separatist rebels by the end of this year or the next. At least 70,000 people have died since the war began in 1983.

Fernandopulle, who had been in charge of roads and highways in the country and was a senior figure in the government, was a vocal critic of the Tamil Tigers. (ANI)