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Lankan defence secretary escapes bid on life
December 01, 2006 14:54 IST
Sri Lankan Defence Secretary and President Mahinda Rajapakse's brother Gotabhaya Rajapakse narrowly escaped a bid on his life on Friday when a suspected Tamil suicide bomber blew himself up in capital, killing at least one soldier and injuring 14 others.
Gotabhaya, a younger brother of the president, was on his way to a high-level security council meeting at the president's official residence, Temple Trees, when the explosion occurred, police said.
He is widely regarded as the mastermind of increased military operations in recent months -- including ground shelling and aerial bombing -- against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
The assassination attempt is the first one after LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran's declaration on Monday that his rebels would resume their campaign for a separate state in the north and east.
Police said the suspected Tamil Tiger suicide bomber had arrived mid-morning in a three-wheeled taxi at the busy intersection in Kollupitiya, a short distance away from the tightly guarded residence of the president.
The powerful blast left the defence secretary, who was wearing a bulletproof jacket and traveling in a bulletproof vehicle, unhurt.
His convoy proceeded to Temple Trees where he showed his brother his sleeve stained with the blood of one of the injured, sources said.
Hospital officials said that the condition of some of the injured was serious. Colombo has been under a heavy security blanket for several months with the onset of escalating violence between the Tiger rebels and the security forces.
Over 3,000 civilians and combatants have died in the 12 months since President Rajapakse took office, despite a foreign-monitored truce being in force.
Roads have been blockaded, search operations are carried out routinely and the sight of heavily armed troops on the troops has become commonplace. Over 60,000 people have died in the three decades since the LTTE launched its struggle for Tamil independence.