World

Sri Lankan suicide blast kills 14

A bomb blast in southern Sri Lanka killed 14 people and critically wounded a government minister as the Muslim community gathered to celebrate a religious holiday on Tuesday, according to police.

A bomb blast in southern Sri Lanka killed 14 people and critically wounded a government minister as the Muslim community gathered to celebrate a religious holiday on Tuesday, according to police.

Sri Lankan Oil Resources Minister H.M. Fowzie told reporters the bomber appeared to be targeting six cabinet ministers who were walking toward the mosque in Akuressa, in southern Sri Lanka.

Posts and Telecommunications Minister Mahinda Wijesekara received serious head injuries in the blast and is listed in critical condition, officials said.

The blast occurred outside the mosque observing an Islamic holiday ceremony involving several politicians.

Ahamed Nafri, 29, said he was walking toward the mosque when the blast went off. "I heard a huge sound and then I saw people had fallen everywhere. They were covered with blood and flesh and the wounded people were screaming," he told the Associated Press by telephone from the hospital in the nearby town of Matara.

At least 14 people were killed in the suspected suicide bomb blast and more than 40  were injured, police spokesman Ranjith Gunasekera said.

The Health Ministry reported that a team of doctors was being airlifted to Matara to help care for the wounded. The four people who critically injured in the attack have been transported to Colombo, officials said.

Military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara told the Associated Press that the suicide attacker was from the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

"Definitely, it's LTTE," Nanayakkara said.

A spokesperson for the Tamil Tigers was not immediately available for comment.

The Tamil Tigers have fought since 1983 for an independent state for the Tamil minority, which suffered decades of marginalization at the hands of governments dominated by the Sinhalese majority. More than 70,000 people have been killed.

Fighting has escalated in recent months, as the military routed the rebels from most of their de facto state in the north and cornered them in a narrow strip of land along the northeastern coast along with tens of thousands of trapped civilians.

With files from the Associated Press