Hundreds gather for funeral of slain Sri Lankan general

June 28, 2006 (AFP) – Hundreds gathered Wednesday for the sunset funeral of a top Sri Lankan army general who was assassinated earlier in the week amid ongoing attacks by Tamil Tiger guerillas. Major General Parami Kulatunga, the army’s number three, was killed Monday along with four others when a suspected Tamil Tiger suicide bomber rammed the 54-year-old general’s car with his motorcycle.

Flanked by columns of troops from all branches of the country’s military, the general’s casket was marched from his home in a Colombo suburb to General Cemetery, the capital’s largest burial ground.

He was cremated as evening fell according to Buddhist tradition, the quiet broken only by 15 symbolic cannon blasts and the din of crows roosting in the trees overhead.

Shortly before Kulatunga’s casket was put to the fire around 6:15 pm (1245 GMT), Education Minister Susel Pramjayatha told mourners: “We are extremely distressed by the untimely demise of General Kulatunga.”

Crowds of onlookers stood opposite the cemetery as military police kept the curious at a distance with a wave of their swagger sticks amid heavy security.

Soldiers armed with automatic weapons and in battle dress stood watc