Blast kills Sri Lanka minister

Highways minister is among those killed in suicide attack outside Colombo.

    Fernandopulle was considered to be a 'chief whip' in the Sri Lankan government [EPA]
    The LTTE has led an armed campaign for a separate ethnic Tamil homeland since the early 1980s.
     
    Senior figure
     
    Fernandopulle was a member of a Sri Lankan government team that held failed peace talks with the LTTE.
     
    Bloody trail

    Key attacks blamed on the LTTE:

    March 1991: Ranjan Wijeratne, Sri Lanka’s defence minister, is among 19 killed in a car bomb attack in Colombo

    May 1991: Rajiv Gandhi, a former Indian prime minister, is killed in southern India by a suspected female LTTE suicide bomber during an election rally

    May 1993: Ranasinghe Premadasa, Sri Lanka’s president, is among 24 killed by a suicide bomber during a May Day march

    December 1999: Chandrika Kumaratunga, Sri Lanka's president, is injured in a bomb attack in Colombo

    June 2000: C V Gunaratne, industrial development minister, is killed in a suicide bomb blast in Colombo

    August 2005: Lakshman Kadirgamar, foreign minister, is shot dead at his home in Colombo by a suspected LTTE sniper

    January 2008: D M Dassanayake, nation building minister, is killed by a roadside bomb just outside Colombo

    Minelle Fernandez, reporting for Al Jazeera from Colombo, said Fernandopulle was a well established figure in the Sri Lankan government.
     
    "He was the chief whip in parliament… he has been in politics for a number of years and has been elected to parliament five consecutive times, from 1989," she said.
     
    "At this stage we are yet to hear any claims of responsibility from the rebels who are considered [by Sri Lankan authorities] to be responsible for the attack."
     
    She added that there had a been a recent lull in fighting around Colombo, with clashes occurring mainly in the north and east of the country.
     
    Lakshman Hulugalle, director general of Sri Lanka's media centre for national security, told Al Jazeera he had little doubt that the LTTE carried out Sunday's attack.
     
    "Suicide bombers belong to the LTTE. They have been doing this for the past 20 years," he said.
     
    "They have killed many ministers, presidents and presidential candidates. They have killed many government officials and armed forces chiefs."
     
    Hulugalle said the attack would not force the government to end military operations against the LTTE.
     
    "The government will go forward with military plans... the government is not going to take anything back because of these terror attacks," he said.
     
    Strong resistance
     
    There has been an increase in heavy fighting between government forces and the LTTE since the government ended a ceasefire in January.
     
    The military has faced tougher resistance from the LTTE than it expected, diplomats and other observers have said.
     
    Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka's president, condemned Sunday's attack.
     
    "This dastardly act will not weaken our resolve to eradicate terrorism from our midst, and bring peace, harmony and democracy to all our people," he said in a statement.
     
    The LTTE has been blamed for more than 240 suicide attacks in recent decades and is listed as a terrorist organisation by the US, European Union and India.

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