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Page last updated at 10:20 GMT, Friday, 22 January 2010

Sri Lanka activist's home is hit by petrol bomb

A police officer inspects the site of the attack at the home of Tiran Alles
Mr Alles's home was badly damaged in the attack

The home of an opposition activist has been attacked with a petrol bomb in Sri Lanka's capital, Colombo, days ahead of a presidential election, police say.

The bomb destroyed the car and damaged the home of Tiran Alles, an ally of Sarath Fonseka, the main election rival to President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Mr Alles, a businessman, escaped unhurt with his family.

Earlier this week the United Nations expressed concern over escalating violence ahead of the 26 January poll.

The vote pits Sri Lanka's ex-army chief - who led the army to victory over Tamil Tiger rebels in May - against President Rajapaksa who provided political backing for the offensive.

Gen Fonseka resigned from his post as chief of defence staff in November following differences with the government over who should take credit for defeating the rebels.

As the election campaign draws to a close, so violence has increased.

"There was an explosion at my house. Somebody threw a bomb, and part of my house was burned and my car is in ashes," Mr Alles told the Reuters news agency.

The attack has been condemned by the government, which described it as a "wanton act of violence".

"Perpetrators of previous incidents are being brought to justice and those involved in this latest cowardly act will face the full force of the law," a statement from the presidential secretariat said.

"We are wholly committed to ensuring a free, peaceful and democratic election in every part of our country. These isolated incidents will not be allowed to affect this goal."

Violence

The vote is taking place amid heightened tension.

Damage to the home of Mr Alles
The vote is taking place amid increased levels of violence

At least four people have been killed in poll-related violence in the weeks leading up to the election.

Sri Lankan groups monitoring the presidential election campaign say the levels of election-related violence and misuse of state resources are at their worst for at least 20 years.

Scores of people have also been wounded in the violence, with more than 20 instances of firearms used or deployed as a threat, Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon, of the Campaign for Free and Fair Elections, told the BBC.

The BBC's Charles Haviland in Colombo says that monitoring groups blame the government side for most incidents of poll-related violence.

Reports suggest the incidents are well-organised - featuring, for example, large gangs of armed men, or attackers armed with iron rods and assault rifles, our correspondent says.

The Sri Lankan army's defeat of the Tamil Tiger ended 26 years of civil war.

The rebels were fighting for a separate Tamil homeland.



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