Feb 14, 2007 (AFP) – A blast in Sri Lanka’s east hurt 12 people ahead of a visit to the region by Britain’s junior foreign minister Kim Howells on Wednesday to assess projects funded by the former colonial power. More than 60,000 people have been killed in the conflict. A van carrying 15 civilians hit a Claymore mine in the eastern district of Ampara late Tuesday, injuring 12 passengers, the defence ministry said.
The blast occured ahead of Howells’ visit to the same district to inspect tsunami relief projects funded by Britain.
The minister arrived in Sri Lanka late Tuesday on a three-day visit to try to salvage the peace process and reinforce Britain’s support for a negotiated settlement in the Tamil separatist conflict.
He was due to meet government, diplomatic and civil society representatives in Colombo before departing late Thursday.
Sri Lanka won independence from Britain in 1948 and Tamil rebels launched a campaign for an independent homeland for the island’s minority Tamils in 1972.