Most Sri Lankan bus ambush victims were shot: military

Thu Jan 17, 2008 8:37am EST
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By Simon Gardner

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's military said on Thursday most of the 27 people killed in a bus ambush were shot by rebels as the passengers tried to flee rather than in the blast that struck the vehicle.

Wednesday's attack came as a six-year truce between the state and rebels formally ended, paving the way for what analysts forecast will be a military push for the Tigers' northern stronghold and a bloody escalation in a 25-year civil war.

The Tigers were not immediately available for comment on the ambush, but routinely deny involvement.

Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said 27 people were killed in the attack in the central town of Buttala, around 150 miles east of the capital Colombo.

Forty-nine were being treated in hospital. Nine children were among the wounded, including a one-month-old baby.

"The terrorists opened fire at people getting down from the bus," Nanayakkara added. "Most were killed and injured due to gunfire, not the bomb."

An official at Buttala hospital, where 23 of the dead were taken, confirmed most had died from gunshot wounds.

The Defence Ministry posted photographs of blood-soaked corpses of some of the victims on its Web site. Local television broadcast footage of the bus, showing bloodstains on the floor and personal belongings strewn inside and out.   Continued...

<p>A policeman stands guard near the bus damaged by a roadside explosion in Moneragala January 16, 2008. A roadside bomb ripped through a Sri Lankan bus killing 26 people and wounding dozens on Wednesday, officials said, as a six-year ceasefire between the government and Tamil Tiger rebels officially expired. Picture taken January 16, 2008. REUTERS/Stringer</p>