Sri Lanka: Blast kills at least 24 as rebel truce ends

Colombo, Jan 16.(AKI) - A bomb has killed 24 people and injured dozens of others in northern Sri Lanka as a six-year ceasefire between the government and Tamil Tiger rebels formally expired on Wednesday.

Police said the blast struck a bus in the town of Buttala, about 240 km from the capital Colombo.

Media reports said a number of children were reported to be on the bus at the time but it was unclear how many of them were among the injured.

The Sri Lankan cabinet voted to formally end the ceasefire with the Tamil Tigers on Wednesday, two weeks after informing Norwegian monitors that it was withdrawing from the deal which it endorsed six years ago.

Norway has been a key player in brokering the 2002 truce.

But now that the truce has ended, peace monitors are expected to leave Sri Lanka and there is speculation that violence will escalate.

Tamil Tigers - members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) - have been fighting for an independent state in northern Sri Lanka since 1983 and the conflict is believed to have claimed more than 70,000 lives.

Fighting has increased in the past two years with both sides blaming the other for exacerbating the conflict.

In the two weeks since the government first announced that it planned to pull put of the truce more than 300 people have died in the north of the country, according to government figures.


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