A bomb blast in a popular department store in a busy Colombo suburb Wednesday evening killed at least 16 people and wounded more than 20 others, in a rare attack on civilians near the capital of Sri Lanka.
The blast occurred just outside the four-story No Limits store in Nugegoda as commuters crowded a nearby bus stop during the evening rush hour, officials said.
Authorities did not immediately speculate on the motive for the blast or who was behind it. Earlier in the day, a female suicide bomber sent by Tamil Tiger rebels killed one person and wounded two others in an unsuccessful attempt to kill a Cabinet minister in his office in Colombo.
The powerful blast at the department store shattered windows and sent piles of crumbled concrete pouring onto the bloodstained sidewalk, according to an Associated Press photographer at the scene.
Police and firefighters were digging through the rubble in a search for more bodies.
The military said in a statement that at least 16 people were killed and 20 others injured. At a nearby hospital, residents came in search of missing relatives. One girl who suffered a broken arm in the attack sat with her mother as she received treatment.
The bomb may have exploded when a security guard at the mall became suspicious about a parcel and tried to open it, a defense official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
However, police at the scene said the explosives may have been in one of the three-wheeled taxis that were destroyed.