(Updates with fresh quotes)
By Ranga Sirilal
COLOMBO, May 9 (Reuters) - A bomb went off inside a cafe in eastern Sri Lanka killing at least 11 people on Friday, the military said, a day before the first local elections in the region in two decades.
The military blamed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for the blast which comes amid intensified fighting between the rebels and soldiers along the northern frontlines.
At least 29 people were wounded in the blast.
“There has been an explosion in Ampara town a little while ago,” said military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara. “11 civilians were killed and 29 injured. It is definitely by the LTTE.”
Security had been tightened for Saturday’s polls in the districts of Trincomalee, Ampara and Batticaloa which are being held after the military pushed out the rebels in 2007 from vast swathes of territory they had held for years.
The elections are also part of the government’s blueprint for devolution in minority Tamil areas it hopes will go hand-in-hand with its push to win the war in which tens of thousands of people have died.
A government minister in Ampara said the rebels had resorted to indiscriminate killing of civilians after failing to hit top political figures
“My home is around 300 meters from the explosion and we were all shaken by it,” said P. Dayaratne, Minister of Plan implementation.
He said he had told by police not to step out of his house because there was information that the LTTE was trying to target senior politicians ahead of the vote on Saturday.
“The LTTE must have done this targeting civilians when they were unable to take a politician or VIP.” Dayaratne said.
There was no immediate comment from the Tigers who usually deny attacking civilians.
Earlier on Friday, Sri Lankan troops backed by warplanes captured a town in the northwest of the island after killing 31 rebel fighters in a battle, the military said, as it pressed on with an offensive in the region.
Three soldiers were killed and another five were missin