"The villagers saw smoke emerging from the jeep and stopped it. The driver and his assistant and some villagers tried to put out the fire by throwing sand on it, when the explosion took place," Radhakrishnan said.

 
Most of the victims were villagers who had gathered near the car to douse the flames.

 

Police ruled out earlier reports that the vehicle might have been transporting weapons to the coast to be smuggled to northern Sri Lanka, where rebel Tamil Tigers are fighting government forces.