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Friday, September 11, 1998 Published at 11:53 GMT 12:53 UK

World: South Asia

Sri Lanka bomb kills Jaffna mayor

Tamil Tiger guerrilla: movement blamed for the blast

A bomb has exploded in the northern Sri Lankan town of Jaffna, killing more than 20 people and wounding several others.

Government officials say the mayor, 46-year-old Ponnuthurai Sivapalan, was among the fatalities.

Brigadier Susantha Mendis, the garrison commander of Jaffna, Superintendent Chandra Perera, the city's police chief, six other police officers, and an army officer were also reported to be dead.

The bomb went off in the Jaffna municipal council office during a meeting between senior Sri Lankan security officials and local Tamil politicians. It was not immediately clear if the bomb had been planted in office, or was carried by a suicide bomber.

[ image: The mayor of Jaffna: killed in the blast]
The mayor of Jaffna: killed in the blast
Jaffna's streets were deserted after the blast, as the war-scarred city's residents retreated into their homes, fearful of further violence.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but military officials blamed it on Tamil Tiger rebels, who are fighting for a homeland for minority Tamils.

Civil administration in the area by moderate Tamils like Mayor Sivapalan is deemed to undermine the influence the rebels have over the population.

The rebels were also blamed for the killing in May of the mayor's predecessor, Sarojini Yogeswaran - four months he had been elected in the first local elections in the region in 15 years.

Tamil Tiger rebels seized Jaffna in 1990, and proclaimed a government for the more than 1 million people who live in northern Sri Lanka, where Tamils are in a majority.

In 1995 Sri Lanka's army retook the city a 50-day offensive and ruled there until local elections were held in a bid to restore democracy, but rebels continue to attack Jaffna from the surrounding jungle.

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