LTTE planes bomb Colombo, shot down (Roundup)

February 21st, 2009 - 1:59 am ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Feb 21 (IANS) Two Tamil Tiger aircraft sensationally bombed the Sri Lankan capital Friday night, wounding upto 40 people, but the military brought down both planes as they tried to flee back towards the country’s north.

Two light aircraft of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) flew into Colombo city around 10 p.m., provoking fierce anti-aircraft fire after India-supplied radars detected them.

Evading anti-aircraft battery, one of the planes dropped a bomb on the headquarters of the inland revenue department in the heart of the capital, causing a huge explosion.

By then, Colombo had been blacked out and was in a state of high alert after troops in the northern Wanni region reported the LTTE aircraft taking off, apparently from an isolated airstrip.

Air Force spokesperson Wing Commander Janaka Nanayakkara told IANS that two LTTE aircraft, which are believed to be Czech-built Zlin - Z-143 light wing air craft, entered the Colombo airspace taking by surprise authorities preparing to overwhelm the Tigers in the country’s north.

Anti-aircraft fire brought down one of the aircraft in Colombo while the second one was shot down over Katunayake while it was attempting to flee. The wreckage of the LTTE aircraft and the bodies of the pilot have also been recovered.

“One of the LTTE aircraft was shot down by the Air Force over the Inland Revenue Department and the second one was shot down in the general area of Katunayake,” Military Spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said.

Katunayake, some 28 km north of here, is where the country’s only international airport is located.

It is the first time the Sri Lankan military has been able to detect and destroy any LTTE plane since the Tamil Tigers unleashed bombing raids on Colombo from March 2007.

According to military officials, the authorities had foiled the LTTE’s plan to attack uncertified targets.

Brigadier Nanayakkara said that at least 38 civilians were injured in the blast and had been admitted to the Colombo national hospital.

Troops were seen firing in the air targeting the rebel aircraft.

The last LTTE air attack was on Oct 29 last year when two LTTE light-wing aircraft flew out of their hideouts in the north and dropped bombs on a power plant station at Kelaniya, Colombo, and on a military base in the north-western Mannar district simultaneously.

Sri Lankan troops operating in the northern battle-zone last month captured at least six airstrips and tarmacs in the Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts, which had been under the control of the rebels over the past one decade.

The Sri Lankan advancing troops have cornered the rebels in less than 100 sq km area in the north-eastern Mullaitivu district. The military has accused the rebels of holding thousands of civilians as human shields.

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