|Sri Lanka Says Rebel Air Raid Was Last Gesture before Defeat|
|Monday, 23 February 2009|
By Paul Tighe and Jay Shankar
(Bloomberg) - Sri Lanka said an air raid by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam on the capital, Colombo, three days ago was a last gesture before the “inevitable” defeat of the rebels.
“Security forces have put in the last nails on the LTTE’s rudimentary air capability,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement on its Web site yesterday. “LTTE terrorists are now in all dire straits and this loss underscores the inevitable” defeat of the group.
Two aircraft were shot down in the raid, one of them crashing into a building housing the Inland Revenue Department and the second coming down north of the city. The Tamil Tigers revealed they had an air wing in March 2007 when propeller-driven aircraft flew 200 kilometers (124 miles) from the north to attack a military installation near Colombo.
Sri Lanka’s army says it is poised to defeat the Tamil Tigers and end their 26-year fight for an independent homeland after capturing their main bases in the north in January. The United Nations is leading international calls for a cease-fire, saying an estimated 250,000 civilians are caught in the fighting and need food and medicines.
The Tamil Tigers now control a pocket of only 87 square kilometers (34 square miles) in the Mullaitivu region in the northeast, the Defense Ministry said yesterday. LTTE chief Vellupillai Prabkaharan “may have thought to showcase a stunt out of his sleeves,” by staging the air raid, it said.
The two pilots were killed and more than 45 people injured in the attack.
The rebels knew the planes would be captured by advancing government troops, so they loaded them with “improvised bombs” and flew suicide missions, Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said after the incident.
“They would have lost the planes anyway,” he said.
One of the pilots, identified as Colonel Rooban, left a statement urging Tamil youths to join the LTTE’s military “in this inevitable last battle against our enemy,” according to the TamilNet news agency in the north. Tamils worldwide are protesting the war “including the extreme self-sacrifice of self-immolation,” he said.
A supporter of the ruling Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam party in India’s Tamil Nadu state died yesterday after setting himself on fire a day earlier, the Press Trust of India reported. He was the fifth person to die in the state in the past month in self- immolation protests in support of Sri Lanka’s Tamils, the news agency said.
The LTTE bombed a power plant in Colombo and a military camp in the north in October last year and staged a raid on a naval base in the eastern port of Trincomalee last August. The military, at the time, estimated the rebel air wing consisted of five aircraft.
More than 70 rebels were killed in clashes in Mullaitivu at the weekend, the military said.
It also accused the LTTE of killing 15 people at a predominantly Sinhalese village in the eastern province of Ampara. The LTTE denied it was behind the shooting, TamilNet reported, citing Nakulan, a rebel commander in the district.
The LTTE, designated a terrorist organization by the U.S., the European Union and India, is fighting for a separate Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka’s north and east.
|Last Updated ( Friday, 09 October 2009 )|
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