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Fonseka still critical after suicide bomb attack

Sri Lanka’s Army Commander remained on life support this week after being seriously wounded by a suicide bomber within the sprawling Army Headquarters in Colombo last Tuesday.

Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka and 30 others were wounded in the attack while eight of his bodyguards, two civilians and the alleged bomber herself were killed.

The attack, which shocked Sri Lanka’s military and political establishments, took place within the confines of the high security Army Headquarters in Colombo. A female suicide bomber entered the heavily-fortified compound and threw herself before the Army Commander’s motorcade, detonating explosives strapped to her person.

Five of Lt. Gen. Fonseka’s bodyguards were killed on the spot, and another 6 people have subsequently died. Lt. Gen. Fonseka, who received serious abdomen and chest injuries, was rushed to Colombo’s National Hospital where he underwent several rounds of surgery. The latest reports said he is now in a “stable condition”, but remains in intensive care.

Gen. Fonseka has still not regained full consciousness and is still on a ventilator, the Sunday Times quoted a surgeon as saying. The surgeon who was involved in the three-hour operation said the situation at one point was “touch and go” but the Commander pulled through.

“Army Commander Sarath Fonseka, who underwent four operations at the National Hospital, after being attacked by a suicide bomber on Tuesday, spoke a few words to his doctors last morning”, reported the Daily Mirror.

An organisation calling itself the High Security Zone Residents’ Liberation Force claimed responsibility for the attack, saying “the LTTE is merely wasting time by maintaining a ceasefire.” But many analysts charge this is a front organisation for the Liberation Tigers.

Some reports, quoting Sri Lankan officals, said the bomber pretended to be pregnant, while some subsequent reports suggested she was actually pregnant. Sri Lankan police told PTI they have reconstructed her face, but it was not medically proved if she was indeed pregnant as she had claimed.

“A top investigator said there was no forensic evidence to suggest she was pregnant except a record at the army hospital that she claimed she was carrying a child and had gone there to attend the ‘maternity day’ clinic” the news agency reported.

Police believe the woman was 21-year-old Anoja Kugenthirasah from the northern Vavuniya district. Police said her mobile phone was destroyed but they managed to recover the SIM card. Other press reports said the woman had received a call after the Army Commander left his office, prompting her to rush out into his route.

A police team investigating last Tuesday’s attack has detained at least five suspects, with two of them being family members of the alleged bomber from Puvarasankulam in Vavuniya. Two family members from the house at the address were arrested and taken to Colombo for interrogation.

Detectives found that the alleged bomber had stayed in a lodge in Colombo. Police also detained the lodge owner who was later released. Detectives had found out that the bomber had visited the Army Headquarters on a few occasions as an officer’s wife who was pregnant. Investigators are trying to find out how she had entered the high security area without arousing suspicion and being checked, the Sunday Times reports.

A senior official of the Criminal Investigation Department said that the investigators “believe that there would be someone inside, who provided and help to the suicide bomber to gain access to the premises and the Commander’s movement.”

“Someone inside tipped her off that Lt. Gen. Fonseka’s motorcade was approaching,” The Sunday Times reported.

On hearing about the attack, President Mahinda Rajapakse met with his most senior political and military advisors and then attended an emergency Cabinet meeting. He then called an all party meeting, where the other main political parties, including the main opposition United National Party, the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna and the Buddhist monk party, the Jathika Hela Urumaya.

Close to midnight on the day of the attack, the President went to the National Hospital where emergency surgery had just been concluded on Lt. Gen. Fonseka. The Sunday Times Political Column reported that he egged on the medical staff, saying “I would like you all to ensure a quick recovery for him.”

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