Thursday, July 29, 1999 Published at 16:04 GMT 17:04 UK
World: South Asia
Sri Lanka: Tamil politician assassinated
Neelen Tiruchelvam's car was blown up by a suicide bomber
A moderate Tamil MP who was a key figure in a government-sponsored peace initiative has been killed by a suicide bomber in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo.
The Tamil Tigers are suspected of carrying out the attack.
The attacker arrived on a motorbike in heavy traffic before dismounting and approaching the politician's car, police said.
However, the police say that contrary to earlier reports, the motorcyclist originally implicated was not involved and that the bomber was acting alone.
The Sri Lankan cabinet has issued a statement expressing its grave sorrow and sadness over the killing of Mr Thiruchelvam.
In one of the first foreign reactions, the US embassy in Colombo said: "We express our profound regret and strongly condemn the violent attack that claimed his life."
Mr Thiruchelvam's TULF party said his killing highlighted the need for a settlement of the Sri Lankan conflict.
"The tragic death...once again emphasises the urgent need to evolve a peaceful political resolution to the country's national conflict," a TULF statement said.
Hallmarks of Tamil Tigers
The group has been fighting a long-running war for a separate homeland for the Tamil minority in the north and east of the island.
Around 58,000 people have been killed in more than 16 years of conflict.
Mr Thiruchelvam's party supports the government, making it a target for the Tigers.
Mr Thiruchelvam also headed the International Centre for Ethnic Studies, a think-tank focussing on the ethnic strife between the Sinhalese majority and Tamil minority.
Government autonomy package
As a lawyer, he had helped the government draw up plans for devolving power to Tamil areas in the north and east, which President Chandrika Kumaratunga hopes will erode support for the Tamil Tigers.
However, BBC Colombo correspondent Susannah Price says that following Mr Thiruchelvam's death and reports of warnings sent to other Tamil MPs, it is unclear how many MPs will openly support the government package.
The deaths of three other TULF politicians have also been blamed on the Tamil Tigers, including the assassination of the party's founder, Appapillai Amritalingam, in the 1980s.