At Least 7 Killed in Mine Blasts in Sri Lankan National Park

A series of powerful mines explosions at Sri Lanka's largest national park destroyed a vehicle full of local tourists, killing at least seven people, police said Sunday.

The army and police found human remains and the wrecked jeep at the site of the blasts in the dense jungle of the park, 105 miles north of the capital, Colombo, a police officer said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

The officer said there were three mine blasts, as security forces found as many small craters in the ground.

A group of tourists told forest guards at the Wilpattu National Park that they saw a jeep Saturday which appeared to have been destroyed by an explosion, said Wildlife Conservation chief Dayananda Kariyawasam.

They said there were eight bodies with the wreck, Kariyawasam said.

On Sunday, the police officer said security forces found six bodies.

The park is known for its unfettered jungle containing wild elephants, leopards and sloth bears. Tourists may drive around parts of Wilpattu — which spans nearly 735 square miles — but are expected to keep to marked tracks.

But parts of the sprawling park are sometimes patrolled by Tamil Tiger rebels, who have been fighting since 1983 for a separate homeland for the country's minority ethnic Tamils, claiming discrimination by the majority Sinhalese.

The war claimed more than 65,000 people were killed before a government-rebel cease-fire halted major hostilities in 2002. However, the cease-fire has nearly unraveled amid recent months of spiral violence, which both sides blame on each other.

Authorities closed the park after fighting erupted in the northern region in 1980s and it was partly reopened three years ago after a cease-fire accord between the government and the Tamil Tiger rebels.