COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – The Tamil suicide bomber who targeted Sri Lanka’s top general used her pregnancy to meticulously plan the attack, an investigator said.
Officials previously said the bomber had only pretended to be pregnant, but the investigator said hospital records showed she actually was.
Her attack Tuesday killed 11 people and wounded army commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka and 25 others. It unleashed fighting between government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels that has posed the most serious threat yet to a four-year cease fire.
The military launched two days of air strikes against the rebels on Tuesday and Wednesday in apparent retaliation for the suicide bombing. The rebels say the strikes killed 12 and sent thousands fleeing their homes.
The bomber identified as 21-year-old Anoja Kugenthirasah used her pregnancy to conceal explosives and get inside a maternity clinic in the army’s heavily fortified headquarters where she attacked the commander, said the investigator.
The woman is believed to have been a member of the dreaded Black Tigers suicide squad.
Fonseka, a battle-hardened soldier with 35 years in the infantry, was appointed to the military’s top post after President Mahinda Rajapakse took office in November. He became a formidable enemy of the Tamil Tigers.
The investigator said Kugenthirasah had fake identification showing she was the wife of a clerk working for the Sri Lankan army and indicating she was pregnant.
Every Tuesday, the military hospital inside army headquarters in the capital Colombo holds a maternity clinic, and Kugenthirasah had visited three times, getting to know the guards and learning Fonseka’s routine, the investigator said. The general went home for lunch around 1:30 p.m.
On Tuesday, Kugenthirasah arrived a half-hour ahead of the clinic opening and stood in front of the hospital, which is beside the road that Fonseka took when he left the headquarters.
As the general’s car approached, she moved closer. One of Fonseka’s motorcycle escorts shouted at her to get away, but she detonated the bomb shortly afterward. Five of Fonseka’s escorts were among those killed in the blast.
The Black Tigers are renowned for their skill at suicide bombings against military, government and civilian targets. Victims have included former Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa and former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
The Tiger rebels have fought the government since 1983 to create a separate state for ethnic minority Tamils, accusing the majority Sinhalese-dominated state of discrimination.