Bomb Explosion Kills Sri Lankan Minister
A Sri Lankan government minister and 11 other people were killed by a suicide bomber Sunday, during the opening ceremony of a marathon near Sri Lanka's capital Colombo, authorities said.
Minister of Highways and Road Development Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, who was opening the race 12 miles outside the capital, Colombo, was among those killed by the suicide bomber, government spokesman Anusha Paltipa said, reported the New York Times.
The defence ministry blamed Tamil Tiger rebels, who are fighting for an independent state for Sri Lanka's Tamil minority, reported the BBC News. Mr Fernandopulle is the second minister to have been assassinated this year.
The explosion happened as Mr Fernandopulle was attending a New Year celebration at the Kanthi playground in the town of Weliveriya, 30km (18 miles) outside Colombo. He was about to wave a flag to start a marathon race when the bomb went off.
At least 50 people were seriously injured and were rushed to a local hospital.
Fighting in Sri Lanka has increased in recent months amid government promises to capture the rebels' de facto state in the north and crush the group by the end of the year, reported the New York Times. So far, at least 70,000 people have died since the war began in 1983, reported the BBC News.
Mr Fernandopulle, who had been in charge of roads and highways in the country and was a senior figure in the government, was a vocal critic of the Tamil Tigers.