LTTE aircraft attack Sri Lankan capital (Lead)

October 29th, 2008 - 11:09 am ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Oct 29 (IANS) Tamil Tiger rebels carried out air strikes Tuesday night targeting a power plant in the Sri Lankan capital and military detachments in northwestern Mannar district, defence sources here said Wednesday.After receiving reports of a suspected Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) aircraft being spotted, the defence authorities switched off electricity in and around Colombo for nearly one hour from 11 p.m. They also activated the anti-aircraft defence system and fired at random in the air from various points for nearly half an hour, in addition to flashing search lights in the skies.

Residents in Colombo north said that the skies in their areas were virtually illuminated due to the barrage of anti-aircraft gunfire and the activation air defence system for about 20 minutes.

Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said that a light-wing aircraft of the rebels first entered the air space of Mannar district in the country’s northwest from the rebel-held Wanni region around 10.30 p.m. Tuesday and “dropped two bombs near military detachments at Thalladi in Mannar, wounding one soldier”.

“Around 11.30 p.m. the LTTE craft dropped a bomb targeting the Kelanitissa power plant station in Colombo north. There was a small fire after the explosion, causing minor damage to one of the generators at the power plant,” Nanayakkara told IANS shortly after midnight Tuesday.

Defence sources quoting Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) officials said that a cooler connected to the gas turbine power generator caught fire and was immediately extinguished by the Colombo fire brigade.

“A CEB employee sustained minor injuries and was admitted to the General Hospital at Colombo,” the source said.

Air Force spokesman Wing Commander Janaka Nanayakkara said Wednesday that air force identified the LTTE aircraft around 10.15 p.m. Tuesday while coming along the western coastal belt, towards north of Kelaniya river-mouth in the western province.

“We concentrated on our air-defence power and forced the LTTE aircraft to vacate. But before fleeing the air space, it dropped one bomb at the Kelanitissa power plant station premises around 11.15 pm, causing minor damages,” the Air Force spokesman said.

He said that the air force “deployed interceptor jets to pursue the LTTE aircraft, but the target could not be taken”, and added that the LTTE’s attempt to enter the airspace of Colombo was successfully thwarted with the timely activation of anti-aircraft system.

It is not immediately known whether the LTTE aircraft suffered any damage during the attacks.

Although there was no immediate word from the Tamil Tigers in this regard, the pro-LTTE puthinam.com website quoting LTTE sources reported Wednesday that the rebel aircraft had returned safely to their hideout in the rebel-held Wanni areas, after carrying out raids in Mannar and Colombo.

The LTTE is believed to possess an unknown number of Czech-built Zlin - Z-143 light air craft.

This is the seventh LTTE air attack against Sri Lanka’s military and economic targets and the second attack in Colombo during the past two years, although the damages caused by these attacks were said to be minimal.

In early September, a couple of LTTE aircraft carried out an air strike targeting a military base in the northern Vavuniya town, 250 km north of here. The Air Force then claimed that it had thwarted the LTTE attack and destroyed one LTTE lower-flying aircraft in the skies of Mullaitivu.

The LTTE later denied the air force’s claims.

The fresh air raids by LTTE have come at a time when fierce fighting is raging in the Wanni region in the north between the advancing government troops and the rebels. The military says that the troops were just two kilometers outside the rebels’ ‘administrative capital’ of Kilinochchi in the north.

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