Fifteen dead, minister hurt in Sri Lanka suicide attack

March 10, 2009 (AFP) – At least 15 people were killed Tuesday and another 60, including a government minister, were wounded in a suicide bombing in southern Sri Lanka blamed on Tamil Tiger rebels, officials said.

The attacker targeted politicians attending a function at a mosque in the town of Akuressa, and came as the ethnic rebels continue to lose ground in the face of a fierce government offensive on their shrinking northeast base.

Some 20 people, including Postal Services Minister Mahinda Wijesekera, were wounded in the attack. He was reported to be fighting for his life in a local hospital.

Culture Minister Mahinda Yapa Abeywardene was initially listed as wounded because he was covered in blood, but was given the all-clear and found to have been covered with the blood of other victims.

“We were talking in procession and just passing the entrance to the mosque when there was a blast. I thought it was a big fire-cracker,” Abeywardene told AFP by telephone from Akuressa, 160 kilometres (100 miles) south of Colombo.

“My clothes were covered in blood and I started running. Later I realised that I was not hurt, but I had blood from someone who was hit in the blast.

“There were lot of