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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 January 2008, 15:29 GMT
Sri Lankan minister dies in blast
Dassanayake
Mr Dassanayake suffered fatal head injuries
A Sri Lankan government minister, DM Dassanayake, has died in hospital after a roadside bomb attack on his convoy.

The minister for nation-building was travelling between Colombo and the international airport when the bomb went off. A bodyguard also died.

About 10 other people were wounded in the blast in the town of Ja-Ela, some 12 miles (19km) north of Colombo.

Tamil Tiger rebels have been blamed for the attack. Fighting between troops and rebels has worsened in recent months.

There has been no comment from the Tigers.

Later on Tuesday there was another explosion, this time in central Colombo. It is not clear what caused the blast, which police say caused no damage or injury.

Shattered windows

Mr Dassanayake died while undergoing surgery for severe head wounds, according to reports from the hospital in the nearby town of Ragama where he was taken.

"The minister was on his way to parliament when his white Toyota Land Cruiser vehicle was hit by a claymore [mine]," military spokesman Brig Udaya Nanayakkara said.

The windows of the vehicle were shattered and photos show the passenger side riddled with holes.

Claymore mines are placed above the ground. They can be detonated by remote control and the explosives can be directed. They are frequently used by the Tamil Tigers.

HIGH PROFILE KILLINGS
A Sri Lankan police officer looks into the damaged vehicle of minister D.M. Dassanayake  - 8/1/08
Aug 2005: Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar shot dead in Colombo
Dec 2005: Pro-rebel MP Joseph Pararajasingham shot dead in Batticaloa church
June 2006: Bomb kills third-highest army officer Maj Gen Parami Kulatunga
Nov 2006: Pro-rebel politician Nadarajah Raviraj shot dead in Colombo
Nov 2007: Air raid kills SP Thamilselvan, head of rebels' political wing
Jan 2008 Tamil member of parliament, T Maheswaran, shot dead in Colombo
Jan 2008 - Rebels' intelligence chief Colonel Charles killed in fighting in the north
Jan 2008: DM Dassanayake, minister for nation building, killed by blast near Colombo

Police sealed off the scene of the attack.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa said the killing was another example of the Tamil Tigers' "continued commitment to terror and violence to achieve its separatist goals, and absolute contempt and disregard for human values and the policies and practices of democracy".

MK Sivajilingam, an MP for the Tamil National Alliance, the main political party representing Tamils, said that "the government withdrawing from the [2002 ceasefire agreement] had pushed the country towards an era of no democracy.

"Both the Tamil Tigers and the government should stop these type of attacks and enter into a dialogue," he told the BBC Sinhala service.

The Tigers have been blamed for a number of assassinations and attempted assassinations in recent years, including one in April, 2006 that badly injured the head of the army. Two months later they killed the third most senior army officer.

A year earlier suspicion for the killing of foreign minister Lakshman Kadirgamar fell on the Tigers.

There has been heavy fighting in the north of the country after the government said last week that it was pulling out of the ceasefire.

Hard-liners in the government and military are confident that the Tigers can be defeated.

The Norwegian-brokered ceasefire began breaking down two years ago, resulting in renewed fighting that has killed more than 5,000 people.

The military regularly say they are inflicting significant casualties on the Tigers in fighting in the north.

Last year they drove the Tigers from strongholds in the east of the island.

An air raid in November killed the head of the Tigers' political wing, SP Thamilselvan.

The Tamil Tigers started air attacks on the military last year.

In December the government released CCTV footage showing a Tamil Tiger suicide attacker blowing herself up in what was believed to be an attempt on the life of a cabinet minister, Douglas Devananda.

At least 70,000 people have died since the conflict began in 1983.

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Images of the aftermath of the roadside blast



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