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Friday October 20, 2000

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Americans hurt in Sri Lanka bombing

By The Associated Press

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - A suicide bomber blew himself up yesterday, killing two other people and wounding 21 - including three American women - shortly before Sri Lanka's president installed her new Cabinet.

The bomber triggered explosives wrapped to his body after a police patrol challenged him. He died on the spot, while a policeman and a civilian died later, said Dr. Hector Weerasinghe, director of the National Hospital.

The military said the bomber was a member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a rebel group that has fought since 1983 for a homeland for minority Tamils in the north and east of the nation.

The rebels did not mention the bombing on their main Web site. Tamilnet, a separate site that gives their perspective of the civil war, reported the bombing without comment.

Weerasinghe said one of the Americans, Barbara Barker, suffered a chest wound but was not in critical condition. The others, Pat Manteleone and Nansie Jubitz, suffered minor injuries, Weerasinghe said.

Their hometowns were not in hospital records and the U.S. Embassy would confirm only that three Americans were wounded.

State-run television said the women were traveling in a car when the blast occurred near Town Hall, about 1.5 miles from the residence of President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

Kumaratunga, whose People's Alliance won Oct. 10 parliamentary elections, had planned to install the new Cabinet at her home, which she seldom leaves because of assassination fears. She was blinded in the right eye by a suicide bombing attack on Dec. 18.

The ceremony was transferred to Queen's House, her normally vacant official residence, nearly two miles from the blast site.

Police said the suicide bomber was spotted on a road that Cabinet members were expected to use to reach Kumaratunga's home, and they may have been the intended targets.

"All indications and evidence suggest that the attack was carried out by the terrorists," Brig. Sanath Karunaratne, a military spokesman, told The Associated Press.

The rebels, outlawed in Sri Lanka, the United States and India, usually do not claim responsibility for suicide bombings but acknowledge having such a unit.

In the new Cabinet, Kumaratunga retained her control of the finance and defense ministries and appointed a former Tamil rebel to the government for the first time.

Douglas Devananda, leader of the Eelam People's Democratic Party, was named rehabilitation minister for the north, where most of Sri Lanka's 3.2 million Tamils live. His party opposes the division of Sri Lanka into Tamil and Sinhalese areas.