Bus Bomb Wounds at Least 14 Near Sri Lankan Capital

A bomb explosion on a bus wounded at least 14 people near the Sri Lankan capital Saturday, but a bigger disaster was averted because a passenger spotted the device and everyone fled the vehicle before the blast, officials said.

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The driver managed to move the bus some meters (yards) away from his passengers and escaped the vehicle just before the explosion in Mount Lavinia, a town south of Colombo, military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said.

The driver was among the wounded, Nanayakkara said, blaming Tamil Tiger separatists for the blast.

Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan did not respond to calls seeking comment.

Dr. W.G. Gunawardena said 14 wounded people were taken to the Kalubowila Teaching Hospital for treatment of minor injuries.

A passenger saw the parcel and alerted the driver and conductor, Nanayakkara said.

Passenger Ajith Prasanna Peiris said everyone clambered out of the bus after no one claimed the parcel.

"Within minutes the bomb exploded," Peiris said.

Bomb blasts blamed on the Tamil guerrillas have killed 19 people and wounded scores more in and around Colombo since January.

The Tamil Tiger rebels have been fighting since 1983 to create an independent homeland for Sri Lanka's minority ethnic Tamils after decades of marginalization by governments controlled by the ethnic majority Sinhalese.

More than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict.