Terror on the rail tracks | Daily News
Dehiwala train bombing marks 26 years

Terror on the rail tracks

Aftermath of the LTTE train bombing in July 24, 1996.
Aftermath of the LTTE train bombing in July 24, 1996.

The Dehiwala train bombing was a terrorist attack carried out by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during the evening rush hour of July 24, 1996.

The Dehiwala train bombing resulted in 64 civilian deaths and the wounding of 400 others. The attack was carried out by LTTE operatives placing suitcase bombs in four carriages on a commuter train. The simultaneous explosion of these bombs resulted in a large number of casualties. The technique of simultaneously exploding multiple bombs in several carriages was used for the first time in Sri Lanka by the LTTE in this attack.

Sudeepa Purnajith died in the LTTE bomb blast.

“I was at home when I heard the explosion, when I came out I saw injured people on the ground struggling with broken hands, legs etc, so we sent them to the hospital using a bus and private vehicles. Body parts were scattered all over the place,” said a witness.

This is the 26th Death Anniversary of Sudeepa Purnajith, who was an artist and a cartoonist attached to the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited (ANCL / Lake House) at the time of his demise. He was an excellent cartoonist who worked for many newspapers published by the ANCL. By that time his caricatures and cartoons were very popular among readers. In addition, Sudeepa was a designer of stamps. While there were many other popular names in stamp designing at the time, Sudeepa’s name held a special recognition as he was one of the youngest among stamp designers and for his age he had one of the largest collection of stamps designed. He had studied cartoons and caricatures in Czechoslovakia (in 1993) and in Germany (in 1994).

On the evening of July 24, 1996, Sudeepa left Lake House and walked towards the Fort Railway Station to catch a train going to Panadura where he lived. He had two options; an express train or a slow one. Although it was considerably crowded, Sudeepa opted for the latter for the sole reason that it stopped at Mt. Lavinia Station. Sudeepa’s fiancé worked at a private office in Mt. Lavinia and Sudeepa hoped to finish the latter half of his train trip back home with the love of his life. He never got to see her that dark day that was dominated by the LTTE terrorists.

Sixty four people lost their lives in the explosion.

Before the train took off from Fort, an off-duty war hero who was at the station at that time noticed a suspicious large parcel which was identified as a bomb. The Bomb Disposal Unit was called immediately and it was defused successfully. Thinking the threat now over, the railway authorities decided to run the train on schedule but the LTTE terrorists had plan B. As the train pulled out from the Dehiwala Station, multiple bombs placed in different compartments went off killing many passengers. Sudeepa was among them.

Then on June 4, 2008 a bomb that exploded between the railway tracks hit a packed commuter train at 07.10 am between the Dehiwala and Wellawatte railway stations on the same rail line, injuring at least 24 civilians.

The Dehiwala train bombing is just one of the brutal bomb attacks in a series launched against innocent civilians by the LTTE. The Central Bus Stand bombing in Colombo on April 21, 1987 killed 113 civilians while the Central Bank bombing that took place in Colombo on January 31, 1996 killed 91 civilians. The world famous Kebithigollewa bus bombing on June 15, 2006 killed 66 civilians while the Lion Air flight bombing on September 29, 1998 killed 55 civilians. On May 14th in 1985 the LTTE killed 114 innocent civilians who were inside the Sacred Jaya Shri Maha Boodhi in Anuradhapura while the LTTE massacred another 127 inside a bus at Habarana on April 17, 1987.

The Digampathana bombing that took place on October 16, 2006 killed 103 innocent civilians. Another 147 innocent civilians were killed at the Kattankudy mosque on August 3, 1990. In addition, the LTTE massacred 207 prisoners in the Mulaitivu camp on July 18, 1996. On June 11, 1990 the LTTE killed 670 Police officers at once in Batticaloa. There were infants, children, pregnant women, the elderly, sick, disabled people and many more among the thousands of innocent civilians killed by the barbaric LTTE.

Our heroic Armed Forces made all efforts to defeat LTTE terrorism and save the Motherland. There are sinister forces at present who are trying to strengthen all types of terrorists and extremists in Sri Lanka. The same thing going on at this moment in the name of various protests. It is the responsibility of each and every Sri Lankan citizen to remember our past history and do not leave any room to repeat the dark parts of our history dominated by the LTTE and all the other extremists sponsored by some Governments. We have to tell our children about the dark era we passed and educate them on the true history of our Motherland which was about to die in the hands of the LTTE and all the other terrorists and extremists sponsored by some Governments. We need to save Sri Lanka for our future generation. Politicians who’s wives, children and relations live abroad may think differently!

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