The Galadari Blast - Fallout

[TamilNet, Thursday, 16 October 1997, 23:59 GMT]
Financial analysts in Colombo said today that the Galadari hotel blast could cost Sri Lanka more than the Central Bank blast in February last year. Initial estimates put the damage around six billion rupees.

The bomb has left a crater 20 feet wide and ten feet deep in the parking lot of the Galadari Hotel.

The damaged World Trade Center building
The World Trade Centre which was expected to be the central piece in the rejuvenation of Sri Lanka's financial hub is in tatters though the blast did not effect the basic structure of the building.

The twin tower building is owned by a Singapore Company called Overseas Reality (Ceylon). The Sri Lankan stock exchange which shifted here ten months ago had to stop operations until further notice. (Sources however said that attempts are being made to resume trading today in another location in the city.)

Foreign investors and tourists staying at the Hilton, Inter Continental and the Trans Asia Hotel left the island in large numbers yesterday. Local TV showed foreigners rushing with bag and baggage from the Hotels which were hit by the blast.

Attempts were made by sections of the local media in the afternoon yesterday to spread reports that suspected LTTE rebels were holding hostages at the state owned Lake House Newspapers building in the Fort area.

It transpired soon that the three of the gunmen believed to have come with the explosives truck had run along the railway lines in the direction of the Fort Railway station and had got into the Lake House when they had found the path sealed off. No one was harmed by the gunmen in the building.

Special Forces commandos were brought in from the Sri Lankan army head quarters to clear the Lake House in the early afternoon.

But they were unable to enter the building until 4.45 p.m. Loud explosions were heard by the Lake House around 4.30 p.m. which caused the units of the Sri Lankan armed forces surrounding the area to open fire.

Picture taken 12 October shows the World Trade Center just before its opening in Colombo.
Initial reports in sections of the local media said that fighting between suspected Tiger rebels and SLA had erupted again.

Reliable sources say that the National Guard Battalion which was sent in to tackle the situation initially had fired at random creating panic.

Among the 12 killed and the 104 wounded were several who may have injured in the indiscriminate cross fire that went on the Hilton Hotel, Lake House area.

Special Forces commandos of the Sri Lankan army entered the Lake House building around 5 p.m. claim they found two suicide bombers blown apart by the explosive packed jackets worn by them and one more dead in another part, apparently from gun shot wounds.

A body of a youth sans suicide jacket and weapons was found under the railway bridge in the area. Eyewitnesses were of the opinion it may have been a local youth caught in the cross fire. But Sri Lankan Police and army strongly believe that it is a member of the attack group.

Yesterday's operations were handled by the Sri Lankan army's 1-2 brigade stationed in Colombo under Brig. Gunesekera.

A Tamil journalist working with Associated Press was arrested and questioned at the scene of the carnage. He was later released.

Ten Tamil suspects were arrested in Colombo today in connection with the blast. Further arrests and detention of Tamils in the city by the Sri Lankan police is expected today.

An Assistant Superintendant of Police of the Sri Lankan Criminal Investigations Department (CID) Mr. Nissanka Dharmaratna was also killed in the blast.

Security arrangements for Colombo are coming under criticism.

Only one platoon of Special Forces commandos had been available at the SLA HQ, and troops not trained in infantry tactics had been drafted in.

The SLA's ongoing operation in the Vanni is said to be stretching the SLA and undermining its ability to effectively protect the capital.


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