Rival Sri Lankan leaders neck-and-neck in race for presidency

Sri Lankan Premier Mahinda Rajapakse was marginally ahead of his rival-in-chief after 50 percent of votes were counted in a presidential ballot boycotted by minority Tamils, officials said Friday. Sri Lankan Premier Mahinda Rajapakse was marginally ahead of his rival-in-chief after 50 percent of votes were counted in a presidential ballot boycotted by minority Tamils, officials said Friday. Results released by electoral authorities showed that Rajapakse had received 2.61 million votes, or 51.11 percent of the 5.1 million votes counted so far. Some 10 million valid votes were cast in total on Thursday.

Former premier Ranil Wickremesinghe was closely trailing with 2.43 million ballots, or 47.59 percent of the votes counted so far.

Violence, meanwhile, continued to plague the country’s east, with unidentified attackers lobbing grenades into a mosque early Friday killing four men at prayer and wounding at least 25, police said.

The blasts ripped through the mosque at the town of Akkaraipattu in the district of Ampara, 350 kilometres (218 miles) east of here by road, while hundreds of devotees were praying, a police spokesman said.

Police said that during Thursday’s vote, two Tam