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Police defuse big bomb near Sri Lanka market

Bid foiled a week after blast killed 7

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka -- Police acting on a tip discovered and defused a powerful bomb planted in a box of vegetables on a bicycle in a busy shopping district in the Sri Lankan capital yesterday, an official said.

Suspicion quickly fell on Tamil separatists who have been waging a separatist war in the country for more than two decades .

More fighting was reported between government troops and Tamil insurgents, with the government saying that the air force destroyed a rebel artillery base and that a soldier was killed in a grenade attack in the north.

The bomb in the eastern Colombo neighborhood of Berolla was hidden among cabbages and other vegetables in a box, Chief Inspector Percy Perera said.

Police and soldiers cordoned off the area and people were evacuated from nearby homes, shops, and offices while the bomb squad defused the explosive.

Perera said a remote control device was found on the other side of the street, which is usually packed with street vendors, shoppers, and commuter buses.

The officer who found the device, Constable Ranasinghe, said a grocer noticed the abandoned bicycle and alerted police. The constable declined to give his first name.

Government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said the bomb weighed about 17 pounds, but he declined to give any more details or discuss who might have planted it because the investigation was continuing.

On Aug. 14, an auto rickshaw packed with explosives detonated on a busy road near a convoy carrying Pakistan's high commissioner, Basir Ali Mohmand. He escaped unhurt, but at least seven people were killed, including four army commandos guarding him.

Suspicion for that blast has fallen on Tamil rebels who have frequently targeted security forces and officials.

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