|Sri Lanka says rebel aircraft shot down|
|Tuesday, 09 September 2008|
COLOMBO (AFP) - The Sri Lankan government said it had shot down a Tamil Tiger aircraft on Tuesday after the rebels launched a major land and air strike that left 21 people dead. Troops repulsed the assault on the Vavuniya military base, 260 kilometres (160 miles) north of Colombo, the ministry said, adding that jet fighters had attacked and destroyed a low-flying rebel plane.If confirmed, it would be the first successful government strike against Tiger aircraft, which began operating in April last year.The ministry said the Tigers used two planes to bomb the base while rebels on the ground tried to break in and attack security forces inside.
"The (rebel) aircraft has been shot down in the Mullaittivu skies while running away following a failed mission," the defence ministry said, referring to the rebel district where Tigers operate air fields.It said 10 soldiers and an equal number of rebels were killed in ground battles at the Vavuniya camp while a policeman was also died in the pre-dawn raid.
The ministry statement said about 28 security personnel were also wounded in the attack.There was no immediate comment from the Tigers who are known to operate about five Czech-built ZLin-143 aircraft smuggled into Sri Lanka in parts and re-assembled.Residents in Vavuniya said they saw anti-aircraft fire illuminating the sky while huge blasts were also heard in the de facto frontier town."We heard the noise of a light aircraft," a resident said by telephone. "Anti-aircraft guns of the military fired for about 20 to 30 minutes."Pro-rebel websites said there were no indications of rebel aircraft being hit. Instead, the pro-Tiger Puthinam.com said five shops in a town in Mullaittivu district were hit by government air attacks on Tuesday morning.Two weeks ago, the Tigers carried out an air strike against the north-eastern port town of Trincomalee.
Sri Lankan Air Force Fighter Air Craft
At least four people were killed and another 10 wounded in that attack targeting the navy.In October last year, the Tigers launched a coordinated land-and-air attack against a key government air base and damaged a large fleet of aircraft, including spy planes.The latest Tiger air strike came as government forces stepped up aerial attacks against them inside their de facto state, just north of the military base that was attacked on Tuesday morning.The military has claimed the upper hand in the latest ground battles.Troops are braced for a fierce battle as the military tries to capture the Tigers' territory in the north after ejecting them from the east last July.On Monday, the government asked the few local and international aid workers still remaining in the rebel-held north to leave immediately.Tens of thousands of people have died since the Tigers launched a campaign in 1972 to carve out a homeland for minority Tamils in the majority Sinhalese island's north and east.
By Amal Jayasinghe
(Courtesy : AFP )
|Last Updated ( Monday, 09 March 2009 )|
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