June 15, 2006 (AFP) – landmine ripped through an overcrowded bus Thursday killing 64 passengers in the deadliest attack on civilians in Sri Lanka in 10 years, sparking military strikes on Tamil rebel positions. Airforce jets were deployed to bomb at least two positions in the island’s northeast after the military blamed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for the carnage.
“The air strikes were carried out as a deterrent,” military spokesman Prasad Samarasinghe said.
“We have taken known LTTE targets in Sampur and Mullaitivu. We have used artillery fire as well.”
The blast in an ethnic Sinhalese district in the North-Central province is the worst against civilians since a July 1996 bomb attack on a train in the capital which killed 70 people.
The rebels denied involvement in the blast and said it was aimed at discrediting them.
The spiralling violence renewed fears that the island is sliding back to full-scale war after peace broker Norway last week failed to arrange a face-to-face meeting between Colombo and the LTTE.
Policy Planning Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, the government’s spokesman on defence-related issues, said at least 58 people including two Buddhist monks were kill