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Sri Lankan suicide bomber kills 3, wounds 36

[AP, Monday, 9 February 2009 08:04 No Comment]

A female suicide bomber blew herself up Monday among a group of soldiers searching civilians fleeing Sri Lanka’s northern war zone, killing three people and wounding 36 others, the military said.

 

The attack took place as the military boxed the Tamil Tiger rebels into a small strip of land on the northeastern coast and stood poised to defeat the group after fighting a 25-year-old civil war.

 

An estimated 250,000 civilians were trapped in the war zone along with the rebels. The military has accused the rebels of holding the civilians as human shields and called for noncombatants to flee to government-controlled areas. The rebels have accused the government of indiscriminately shelling the war zone, leading to increasing civilian casualties.

 

On Monday morning, more than 800 civilians had crossed the front lines and were being searched by soldiers before being sent to camps farther south, military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said.

When the attacker was frisked, she set off the bomb she was wearing, killing one soldier and two civilians, he said. Another 21 civilians and 15 soldiers were injured, he said.

 

"The LTTE is now desperate because they don’t have any control over the civilians now," Nanayakkara said, calling the rebels by the initials of their formal name, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. "They wanted to stop these people coming in."

 

The attack appeared aimed at one of the military’s weak points, the processing of the masses of civilians trying to flee the area. It also highlighted fears that even if the government defeats the rebels on the battlefield, they will simply blend in with civilians and fight on as a guerrilla insurgency.

 

With most communication to the north severed, the rebels could not be reached for comment.

The rebels have been accused of more than 200 suicide attacks and are listed as a terror group by the United States and the European Union.

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