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Page last updated at 15:32 GMT, Friday, 9 May 2008 16:32 UK

Bombing on eve of Sri Lanka polls

City Cafe in Ampara after the blast, 9 May
The cafe is said to have been packed when the bomb went off


At least 11 people have been killed in a bombing on the eve of elections in eastern Sri Lanka, the military says.

More than 20 others were wounded in the blast in a cafe in the town of Ampara, 220km (130 miles) from Colombo. Tamil Tiger rebels have been blamed.

Security is tight in the east of the island, a day before the region's first provincial elections in 20 years.

Fighting between troops and Tamil Tigers has worsened this year after the government pulled out of a truce.

Limited devolution

The director of Ampara national hospital, Dr Lankathilake Jayasinghe, told the BBC's Sinhala Service that 11 people had been killed and 36 injured in the blast.

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Military spokesman Brig Udaya Nanayakkara said the 11 people killed were all civilians.

The explosion hit a small restaurant called the City Cafe and Bake House.

Brig Nanayakkara said the blast was clearly the work of the rebels, or the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as they are known.

"Yes definitely, it's the LTTE," he said. "They have done similar explosions in Colombo and its suburbs. This was also done by them."

Voters in the east coast towns of Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Amapara go to the polls on Saturday to elect the eastern provincial council.

The elections come after government troops drove the Tamil Tigers from their bases in the east last summer.

The BBC's Roland Buerk in Colombo says Saturday's vote will lay the foundation for limited devolution that the government says is the answer to Tamil complaints of domination by Sinhalese-led central governments.

'Town taken'

Meanwhile, fighting is going on in the north where the rebels have their main stronghold.

The military said a small town and an area of territory were captured on Friday and 31 Tiger fighters were killed as well as three soldiers. The account cannot be independently verified.

About 70,000 people have been killed since the civil war began in 1983. The rebels want an independent state for minority Tamils in the north and east.




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