A suicide bomber in northern Sri Lanka blew himself up on Monday, killing at least 27 people, including an opposition politician, the retired Maj. Gen. Janaka Perera. The army says nearly 80 people were wounded in the attack. Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse denounced the attack, blaming Tamil Tiger rebels and saying they were "making every attempt to create violent backlashes" after suffering a series of setbacks in the ongoing army operation against them.
There is little hope of a peaceful solution in Sri Lanka as violence escalates
Retired Major General Janaka Perera was at the inauguration ceremony of the new office of his party -- the main opposition United National Party (UNP) -- in Anuradhapura town, when the blast took place on Monday morning. He and his wife were killed, along with a TV journalist and 25 others.
The military blamed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), for the attack. Denouncing the blast, President Mahinda Rajapaksa called on all the country’s political parties to unite in order to eradicate terrorism.
The Tigers, who have been accused of killing many politicians in similar fashion, did not immediately comment on the attack.
The United National Party (UNP) said it was too early to say who was behind the attack. “We are waiting for more information. The general was not given any security because the government believed he didn’t face any threats from the LTTE,” said Lakshman Kirielle, the party spokesman.
General accused of war crimes
General Perera spearheaded some of the major military operations against LTTE in the late 1990s. Some human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have accused him of war crimes.
After retiring from the military in 2001, Perera served as Sri Lanka's ambassador to Australia and Indonesia. On returning to Sri Lanka, he joined the UNP. He contested for the post of Chief Minister in North Central Province in August 2008 but lost.
When UNP leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe, came to power in 2001, the government negotiated a peace deal with the Tamil Tigers.
But the deal collapsed earlier this year under the leadership of President Mahinda Rajapakse from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, who took office in 2005. He insists the Tigers can only be defeated militarily.
Doubts about a peaceful solution
Although the opposition UNP has accused the government of misusing the military campaign for political purposes in the past, it does not believe that peace is possible in the present circumstances.
When our party offered peace, the LTTE rejected the solution,” explained Kirielle. “I don’t know if a peaceful solution is possible with LTTE.”
The fresh violence came as the Sri Lankan army stepped up its military campaign against the Tigers. The army has claimed that it is just two kilometres away from Kilnochchi, a town used by rebels for administrative purposes.
Defence analysts say that if the Tigers lose control of Kilinochchi, it will be a big setback for the rebels. They warn they could retaliate by carrying out even more attacks in future.