Massive blast rocks Downtown Colombo
[TamilNet, Wednesday, 15 October 1997, 23:59 GMT]
A massive blast rocked Colombo's financial centre, at 7.10 this morning. A suspected truck bomb caused extensive damage to the area. A fire-fight ensued and lasted for 3 hours, as 20 or 30 attackers fought off Sri Lankan security forces who moved into the area. Another explosion and fire-fight occurred near the state press building.
Just after 7am, an estimated 20 to 30 unidentified attackers had arrived in the car park of the Galathari hotel in Colombo's Fort area. According to hotel staff, the attackers had warned people in the area to take cover.
A massive explosion had followed shortly afterwards, causing extensive damage to the area. A little while later, as security forces moved in, a fire-fight ensued which lasted for at least 3 hours.
At least 3 people are believed to have been killed and 40 injured.
The attackers seem to have escaped after the fire-fight. Sri Lankan security forces are currently mounting cordon and search operations in the area, which is the location of major financial institutions, including the Central bank.
Another explosion had occurred near the Lakehouse building, the premises of the state owned press. A brief fire-fight had followed this blast as well. Further details are not available as this story is being filed.
The Sri Lankan minister for Aviation and Tourism, Mr. Dharmasiri Seneyaka, speaking to reporters on the spot said that despite the precautions, "there had clearly been a security lapse".
A Buddhist priest at a Colombo temple had died of a heart attack on hearing the blast. One of the attackers is said to have been found dead on nearby railway tracks.
Among the buildings damaged in the Fort area blast is the Twin Towers World Trade Centre, the tallest building in Colombo. It had been opened by the Sri Lankan President only 3 days ago.