COLOMBO, July 26: With the discovery of three suicide bomber kits and the arrest of several persons including two Tamil journalists, Sri Lankan police say they have uncovered a plot to assassinate President Chandrika Kumaratunga days before the July 29 SAARC summit.
The Sunday Times reported today that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had planned to assassinate the President at a function she was supposed to attend on July 22. Though at that time her security did not know of the plot, they advised her not to attend the function and she delegated one of her ministers to go on her behalf.
The plot came to light with the arrest earlier this month of Thanarani Ganesh who is believed to be a hardcore member of the LTTE's intelligence unit. She led the police to a grocery store in the capital's Jampettah commercial district where three suicide jackets, 10 kg of explosives and cyanide capsules were discovered. Soon after, the police arrested two journalists of the Tamil national dailyVeerakesari. As yet, there is little information on their role in the whole affair.
The arrest of the Veerakesari journalists, including its astrological columnist who is also an assistant director in the government's Hindu Culture Affairs Department, followed the interception of a letter written by the suicide bomber to one of them after the police took her into custody.
According to the Sunday Times, Thanarani planned to target Kumaratunga at a function in the capital in the same manner as the suicide bomber Dhanu killed Rajiv Gandhi.
With just three days to go before the inauguration of the summit, security in the Sri Lankan capital has been tightened to an unprecedented scale in the light of the discovery of the assassination plot. According to the police, most of the roads in the city would remain closed during the three-day summit, beginning on Wednesday, to prevent possible attempts to disrupt it by the LTTE.
Some 4,500 additional recruits have been deployed along withregular police personnel in the city for sentry duty along the roads and to check the identity of pedestrians and vehicle users.
Meanwhile, foreign ministers of all the seven member countries of SAARC arrived here on Sunday for their meeting ahead of the summit. The foreign ministers meeting will be held on July 27 and 28.
Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.