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Sri Lanka bomber 'kills dozens'

Wounded at hospital in Anuradhapura
Some of the wounded are brought to hospital in Anuradhapura

A female Tamil Tiger rebel has blown herself up, killing 28 people and injuring dozens more in the north-east, the Sri Lankan military says.

A military spokesman told the BBC the woman blew herself up as she travelled with civilians fleeing fighting.

He said 20 of those killed in the attack in the Vishwamadu area of Mullaitivu district were soldiers. The rebels have made no comment yet.

Thousands of civilians have fled the fighting over the past few days.

Evacuated

Military spokesman Brig Udaya Nanayakkara told the BBC: "[The civilians] were coming to an area where there were security forces. A woman in that group blew herself up when she was being checked by female soldiers."

Brig Nanayakkara said 20 soldiers, including three women, were killed along with eight civilians. About 50 troops and 40 civilians, mostly women and children, were hurt, he said.

MAJOR ATTACKS
Oct 08: Blast kills 27 including former general in Anuradhapura
Apr 08: Blast kills 24 in Colombo
Jun 06: Gen Parami Kulatunga killed in attack on his convoy
Jun 06: More than 60 killed in a bomb attack on a passenger bus
Apr 06: Army chief Sanath Fonseka seriously injured in attack on his HQ
Aug 05: Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar shot dead in his house
Jul 01: Attack on Colombo airport kills 18 and destroys planes
Dec 99: President Kumaratunga wounded in failed assassination attempt
The injured, Brig Nanayakkara said, were being evacuated to hospitals in the area.

State television showed footage of the bodies of civilians lying on bloodstained ground in Vishwamadu.

The United Nations said it deplored the attack. Resident coordinator Neil Buhne said: "It's a blow for people who have suffered so much."

A UN statement reiterated that "civilians must be distinguished from combatants, and protected from the fighting", and called once again on the rebels to separate their forces from civilians under their control.

The US also condemned the attack. An embassy statement said it was an "apparent effort by the [Tamil Tigers] to discourage Tamils from leaving the conflict area".

The rebels have made no comment but on Sunday the pro-rebel TamilNet web site again accused the army of firing shells into civilian zones, killing 80 and wounding 200.

Independent journalists cannot travel to the war zone so information cannot be verified.

The rebel-held enclave is coming under sustained pressure from the army.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has called on the Tamil Tigers to let thousands more civilians leave and then unconditionally surrender.

Aid agencies have expressed grave concern for the more than 200,000 civilians believed trapped.

The government has accused the rebels of preventing non-combatants from leaving and using them as human shields.

But the Tigers say the civilians are staying in the enclave because they fear the army.

The rebels started fighting in the 1970s for a separate state for Tamils in the north and east.

The military has made sustained gains in recent weeks and the government has rejected international calls for a ceasefire, demanding the rebels lay down their arms.

The Tigers have said they will not do so until they have a "guarantee of living with freedom and dignity and sovereignty".

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