updated 4/25/2008 11:25:56 AM ET 2008-04-25T15:25:56

A suspected rebel bomb exploded on a bus in a Colombo suburb Friday evening, killing 24 civilians and wounding 40 others, the military said.

The explosion took place about 6:45 p.m. local time while the vehicle, which had passengers on it, was at a bus stand in the town of Piliyandala just south of the capital, said military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara.

"This is definitely an LTTE act," he said, referring to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam rebels.

Ambulances with sirens railing flooded a nearby hospital, where off-duty doctors and nurses ran in to help the injured. A boy about 6-years-old, and a girl about 8-years-old were wounded and dazed as they were brought inside.

The bomb was hidden in a parcel on the overhead rack above the third row of seats behind the driver, Nanayakkara said.

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

The rebels, responsible for scores of suicide bombings and other attacks on civilians, are listed as a terror group by the United States, European Union and India.

The attack was the first major bombing since a suicide bomber killed 14 people, including a government minister and a former Olympian, at the start of a marathon April 6.

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