COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - Sri Lanka celebrated its 60th independence anniversary yesterday with a display of military might, but suspected rebels marred the holiday with their own show of power, killing 13 passengers in a bus bombing.
Tanks, jets, attack boats, and thousands of troops paraded through the capital, Colombo, to mark the holiday as the quarter-century-old civil war raged on in this Indian Ocean island nation.
In a defiant speech, President Mahinda Rajapaksa railed against the Tamil Tigers and reiterated his vow to force the rebel group out of its northern stronghold and destroy it.
Senior government officials have said they hoped to rout the rebels and end the war this year. But fighting between government forces and the separatist guerrillas has exploded across the jungles of the north in recent months, with suspected rebels launching a wave of attacks against civilian and military targets deep inside government-controlled territory.
In an attempt to prevent violence from marring the nationally televised independence day celebrations in Colombo, troops sealed off roads across the capital and a major cellphone operator shut off its text-messaging service for six hours.
The festivities along Colombo's coastal road began with a 21-gun salute and a parade by hundreds of army, navy, air force, and police officials, along with tanks, artillery guns and multibarrel rocket launchers. Twelve naval gunships and fast-attack craft sailed off the coast, while 26 fighter jets and attack helicopters flew overhead.
Hours after the parade, a roadside bomb tore through a bus in the Welioya region, about 150 miles northeast of Colombo.
The attack killed 13 people and wounded 16 others, said military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara, blaming the rebels.
Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan did not answer calls seeking comment. The Tamil Tigers, listed as a terrorist group by the United States and European Union, routinely deny responsibility for such attacks.
Another roadside bombing in the southeastern town of Buttala killed one soldier and injured two others, the military said.
The bus attack came after a weekend of violence. Fighting along the front lines in the north killed 36 rebels and one soldier Sunday, the military said yesterday. The rebels were not available for comment.
Also over the weekend, a female suicide bomber killed 11 people at Colombo's main railway station and a bus bombing killed 18 people, mostly Buddhist pilgrims, in the central town of Dambulla.
European Union External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner condemned the attacks.