Army captures Tiger airstrip: Sri Lankan military

October 1st, 2008 - 1:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Oct 1 (IANS) Sri Lankan troops have captured a Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) airstrip in the northern district of Mullaitivu, the military said Wednesday.According to the Media Centre for National Security (MCNS), soldiers advancing deeper into the rebel-held areas had “located the LTTE airstrip Tuesday afternoon in the general area of Panikkankulam”.

Panikkankulam, a jungle village, is seven kilometres from the LTTE-dominated Mankulam town and 500 meters from the Jaffna-Kandy main highway.

“The location of this 500 m long airstrip, believed to have been perhaps used by terrorists for landing their light aircraft in emergency, struck a major blow to their escalation of terrorist acts. It is also believed the airstrip could have been used as an open parking space or a hangar…,” the MCNS said.

Military websites have carried photographs of the captured LTTE airstrip.

Air force spokesperson Wing Commander Janaka Nanayakkara said fighter jets had “bombed this particular airstrip on more than one occasion during the past two years.

“We do not have information to say that the LTTE has used this runway for their flying activities in the recent past. It is likely they would have abandoned it after our raids,” Nanayakkara told IANS Wednesday.

There was no immediate reaction from the LTTE, which is believed to have an unknown number of Czech-built Zlin-Z-143 lightwing aircraft and has carried out several air raids against military installations.

The air force Wednesday also conducted a pre-dawn air raid in the north targeting a “high-profile rebel hideout”.

“We took a target at Piramanthalkulam in Mullaitivu district around 5.30 a.m. Wednesday. It is a location where the top LTTE leadership used to hide. Pilots confirmed that the target was hit accurately, but we do not immediately have details of casualties,” the spokesperson said.

The LTTE has been fighting against the Sri Lankan state to carve out a separate state for Tamils in the northern and eastern part of the island for the past quarter century.

Thousands have died in fighting between the LTTE and the military since 2005. The military is presently engaged in efforts to wrest territory in the north controlled by the LTTE.

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