updated 10/2/2009 2:57:04 AM ET 2009-10-02T06:57:04

A car bomb exploded in northwest Sri Lanka on Friday and wounded 13 people, most of them schoolchildren about to travel in the van, the military said.

It was the first major bomb blast reported in the country since government troops crushed the Tamil Tiger rebels in May, after a 25-year insurgency for an independent homeland.

Military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said a private dispute is suspected to be behind the blast.

He said the bomb had been set up to explode when the engine was started Friday morning near the town of Kurunegala. He said an investigation is continuing.

The wounded included seven schoolchildren, aged mostly from 7 to 11, said Dr. Soma Rajamanthri of Kurunegala Teaching Hospital.

She said others wounded were the driver, parents who were dropping off their children, and a nine-month-old baby. One child was critically injured, while the rest were out of danger, Rajamanthri said.

The Tamil Tiger rebels had frequently targeted public transport killing and wounded hosts of civilians. Between 80,000 to 100,000 people were killed in Sri Lanka's civil war.

More on: Sri Lanka

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