COLOMBO (Reuters) - At least eight people were killed and 73 civilians injured when a bomb exploded on a train during rush hour in the Sri Lankan capital on Monday, military officials said.
The military blamed Tamil Tiger rebels for planting the bomb, which detonated in the Colombo suburb of Dehiwala.
“Eight civilians including a pregnant woman were killed and 73 injured from the explosion,” said military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara.
The explosion came as the military and the Tamil tiger rebels are locked in a new chapter of a 25-year civil war that has killed more than 70,000 people.
“I was at home when I heard the explosion, when I came out I saw injured people struggling, so we sent them to the hospital using a bus and private vehicles,” said Nandana Peiris, a witness.
A Reuters witness saw four dead bodies at the scene.
The military defused two powerful bombs on two buses over the weekend and has stepped up security in public areas.
The explosion came after a Tamil Tiger rebel suicide bomber crashed his motorbike into a police bus in the capital on May 16, killing 12 people.
The explosion came amid daily land sea and air attacks as the Sri Lankan military wages an offensive to retake the Tigers’ northern stronghold.
The military said the air force had bombed rebel positions on Monday in support of ground troops in the island’s northwestern Mannar district.
The military also said 21 Tamil Tiger rebels and one government solider had died in fighting on Sunday on the northern Jaffna peninsula.
Independent confirmation of battlefield casualties is not possible because of the lack of access. Both sides are known to exaggerate the other’s losses and play down their own.
Military data shows about 400 rebels have been killed in May and 45 soldiers have died.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who are fighting for an independent state, were not immediately available for comment but they usually deny involvement in such attacks.
Reporting by Ranga Sirilal