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1986: Bomb kills 21 in Sri Lanka

Twenty-one people have been killed and 41 injured after a bomb exploded in an airliner at Colombo airport in Sri Lanka.

There were 128 passengers on board - among them 25 Britons, five of whom were injured. It is believed the bomb was planted by Tamil rebels seeking a separate homeland on the island state.

The Air Lanka Tristar had come from London's Gatwick airport, stopping at Zurich and Dubai on the way to the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo.


"All of a sudden there was a massive, massive flash bang with flames"

Simon Ellis, British survivor

Flight UL512 was carrying mainly French, British and Japanese tourists and was about to fly on to the Maldives Islands in the Indian Ocean when the explosion ripped the plane in two.

Windows in the terminal building were shattered.

"All of a sudden there was a massive, massive flash bang with flames," said one of the British survivors, Simon Ellis.

"The ceiling came down and our chair was blown backwards. When I managed to climb over the chairs, I looked out and there it was - there was nothing. The plane had been blown in half just right behind our chairs."

The attack was probably designed to damage peace talks brokered by India between the Tamil rebels and the Sri Lankan government.

The security forces in Sri Lanka said they had already had warnings from Tamil guerrillas that they were planning a major attack in the capital.

Sri Lankan officials believe the bomb may have been concealed in crates of meat and vegetables being freighted to the Republic of Maldives, but no official announcement has been made.

In Context
A search of the aircraft the next day uncovered a parcel containing uniforms with the insignia of the Black Tigers, the commando wing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the fiercest of the Tamil guerrilla groups.

The dispute between the ruling Sinhalese and the minority Tamils started in the late 1970s.

A ceasefire and a political agreement reached between the government and rebels in late 2002 raised hopes for a lasting settlement. But Norwegian-brokered peace talks stalled and rising levels of violence brought an end to the truce in January 2008.


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