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Tamil Tiger bomber kills 28 at checkpoint

A WOMAN with a bomb strapped to her body hid in a crowd of Sri Lankan civilians yesterday, blowing herself up as security forces frisked people fleeing the northern war zone and killing 28 people, the military said.

The suicide attack, which killed 20 soldiers and eight civilians, led to fears the Tamil Tiger separatists - boxed into a small strip of land on the northeastern coast of Sri Lanka and on the verge of defeat - will increasingly turn to guerrilla warfare in their battle against government forces.

The Red Cross estimates 250,000 civilians are also trapped in the area.

The military has accused the rebels of using the civilians as human shields. The rebels have accused the government of indiscriminate shelling, including in a government-designated "safe zone," leading to increasing civilian casualties.

Yesterday morning, more than 800 civilians had crossed the front lines and were being searched by soldiers when the bomber attacked, military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said.

The bomber was being frisked when she set off the explosives, he said. The blast also wounded 24 troops and 40 civilians, he said.

Footage carried by state television showed a child in a purple dress lying lifeless on the ground and other civilians lying dead nearby.

The attack targeted a military weak point: the processing of the masses of civilians fleeing the area.

Military officials say the flow of civilians out of the war zone has increased in recent days, with 4,700 fleeing on Sunday, Nanayakkara said.

The attack highlighted concerns the rebels are trying to blend in with the civilian population so they can fight on using insurgent tactics.

With communication to the north severed, the rebels could not be reached for comment.


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