LTTE attacks air force base, rebel aircraft destroyedSeptember 9th, 2008 - 8:37 am ICT by IANS
Colombo, Sep 9 (IANS) Light-wing aircraft of the Tamil Tiger rebels have carried out a pre-dawn air raid Tuesday targeting the Sri Lankan Air Force base in northern Vavuniya district, and the security forces retaliated and destroyed a rebel aircraft, a top defence official said. “The LTTE has attempted an air raid on the Sri Lankan Air Force base in Vavuniya in the early hours of Tuesday. We intercepted and destroyed one LTTE aircraft over the rebel-heartland of Mullaitivu in the north,” Air Force spokesman Group Captain Janakka Nanayakkara told IANS.
Mullaitivu is located 352 km northeast of Colombo and nearly 100 km north of Vavuniya.
He said the details of the damages caused by the LTTE air raid was not immediately known.
There was no immediate word from the LTTE on the incident. The LTTE is believed to be in possession of an unknown number of Czech-built Zlin-Z-143 light-wing aircraft.
Residents in Vavuniya town, located 254 km north of capital Colombo, said over the phone that they heard barrage of artillery gunfire a few minutes before the suspected low-flying aircraft of the LTTE entered the Vavuniya air space.
This is the sixth LTTE air attack and the second raid within 15 days. But this is for the first time that the Sri Lankan Air Force was able to destroy an LTTE aircraft.
On the night of Aug 29, at least four Sri Lankan naval sailors were reportedly killed when a light-wing aircraft of the rebels bombed a key naval base in Sri Lanka’s eastern port city of Trincomalee.
The fresh LTTE air raid has come at a time fierce fighting is raging in the northern Wanni region between the advancing government troops and the rebels.
The military, which has captured the northwestern Mannar district last month, has now declared that the advancing troops are operating just 12 km away from the rebel-heartland of Kilinochchi.
The fresh rebel air raid has come exactly a day after Sri Lanka asked local and international aid workers to vacate Tamil Tiger-held territory at the earliest, virtually indicating the preparation for a major push against the rebel in their last Wanni bastions.
Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights said that the government has told the aid agencies “that we are not in a position to guarantee their safety given the present situation”.
“We asked them to leave the Wanni area with all their resources immediately for their own safety. They wanted a week or two to comply,” he said.