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Sunday, January 25, 1998 Published at 17:28 GMT


Eleven die in Sri Lankan temple suicide bomb
image: [ Investigators sift through debris at the Temple of the Tooth, one of Sri Lanka's holiest sites ]
Investigators sift through debris at the Temple of the Tooth, one of Sri Lanka's holiest sites

A suicide lorry bomb at a temple in the central Sri Lankan town of Kandy has killed at least 11 people and injured about 20 others.

Two of the dead are believed to be the bombers who drove a truck containing explosives.

[ image: Buildings in the area were badly shaken]
Buildings in the area were badly shaken
The explosion occurred in front of one of the country's holiest sites, the Buddhist Dalada Maligawa, the Temple of the Tooth. It happened on Sunday morning.

Although no group immediately claimed responsibility, police blamed the Tamil Tiger guerrilla group for the killings.

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A Sri Lankan Government statement said those in the lorry opened fire on police as they smashed through a roadblock before detonating the bomb in front of the temple. Police opened fire on the truck when it failed to stop.

[ image: Troops had been deployed in advance of Independence celebrations]
Troops had been deployed in advance of Independence celebrations
The statement said: "Due to the explosion, the entrance and the roof of the temple are damaged." However, the inner chambers are said to be undamaged and the tooth itself, which is believed to be that of the Buddha, was unharmed.

Other buildings in the area were badly shaken.

BBC Coorrespondent Susannah Price reports from Kandy (2' 07")
As the clean-up operation continued, police fired tear gas to disperse crowds attacking a Hindu centre in a revenge attack.

[ image: The explosion occurred in Kandy]
The explosion occurred in Kandy
Kandy is to be the centre of celebrations next month to mark the 50th anniversary of Sri Lankan independence from Britain. Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, is due to attend.

Thousands of police had already been drafted into Kandy due to fears that the Tigers, fighting for an independent homeland in the north and east of the country, would try to sabotage anniversary plans.

Tamil Tigers are also being held responsible for killings a series of murders in the Jaffna peninsula in northern Sri Lanka.

Eight people have been killed in in the worst violence so far in the run-up to next week's local elections.

Unidentified gunmen have attacked members of a former militant Tamil party, the EPDP, which is contesting the elections.

The attack is believed to have been carried out by separatist Tamil Tigers who are boycotting the polls.

The BBC Colombo correspondent says the attack is a setback for the Sri Lankan government which hoped to demonstrate that normal life was returning to Jaffna in advance of the election ,which is the first in the peninsula for 16 years.

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