Sri Lanka launches air raid after LTTE attack

By P. Karunakharan, IANS,

Colombo : Sri Lankan jets Wednesday pounded a suspected Tamil Tiger base in the island’s north, barely hours after the rebels launched a sea-borne attack on a naval detachment in the north-western island of Mannar leaving killing nine combatants.

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The defence ministry said that the air sorties were launched around 7.10 a.m. after observing “intensified activities” by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the Muhamalai forward defence line (FDL) in Jaffna peninsula.

But the damage caused to the rebels was not immediately known.

According to naval sources, a flotilla of six boats of the Sea Tigers, the LTTE’s sea wing, sailing from the rebel-held Vidataltivu area attacked the Erukkalampiddi naval outpost before dawn.

“But the naval troops effectively thwarted the LTTE attack, killing five LTTE cadres, including a senior cadre Sirimaran. Four sailors also died in action,” the navy said. Three sailors were wounded.

The latest strike has come amid fierce land battles between advancing government troops and the LTTE over the past one year, leaving thousands dead on both sides.

The pro-LTTE Tamilnet website reported that the attack was carried out by a special unit of the Sea Tigers in memory of its self-styled “Lt. Col. Kadaafi”, a commander of the Sea Tigers Special Engineering Division who was killed two months ago.

It also claimed that the rebels seized arms and military hardware, including a radar equipment before escaping. The attack site is located about eight kilometres northwest of Mannar town.

The Tigers have seized 50-caliber machine guns, 81 mm mortars, light machine guns, rocket launchers and other military hardware from the camp, it quoted LTTE sources as saying.

TamilNet reported that four guerrillas were killed in the attack.

The Sea Tigers carried out a similar a pre-dawn attack on a naval detachment in an islet in the heavily guarded northern Jaffna peninsula May 29 and claimed to have seized military hardware including a radar.

Meanwhile, the defence ministry claimed that at least 10 LTTE guerrillas were killed and several others wounded in separate clashes elsewhere in the northern battlefronts Tuesday.