6 Oct 2008

Former general killed in Sri Lanka blast

8:08 pm on 6 October 2008

A suicide blast in the Sri Lankan town of Anuradhapura has killed more than 25 people, including a former senior army general, the defence ministry says.

Major General Janaka Perera, a controversial commander in the Jaffna peninsula in the 1990s, died alongside his wife.

More than 65 people were injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up inside the United National Party office near a bus depot, officials said.

Officials blamed the attack on separatist Tamil Tiger rebels.

Major General Perera was the provincial leader of the country's main opposition UNP party.

He was one of Sri Lanka's most prominent army officers, and held the command of government forces in the Jaffna peninsula, a Tiger stronghold, in the mid-1990s.

The Tamil community accused him of being responsible for hundreds of deaths and the torture of Tamils in the region during the period.

The human rights group, Amnesty International, also raised similar concerns.

After retiring from the army, General Perera served as Sri Lanka's high commissioner to Australia and ambassador to Indonesia.

His appointment as the Australian envoy in June 2001 sparked protest demonstrations in Sydney.

More than 300 Tamils protested outside the Australian parliament accusing General Perera of "war crimes".

The Tamil Tiger rebels have been fighting for a separate homeland for a quarter of a century and about 70,000 people have been killed in the violence.