Sri Lankan jets pound rebel base; ground troops, rebels exchange artillery fire
Mon November 6, 2006 09:23 EST .
Associated Press Writer
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ Sri Lankan fighter jets on Monday pounded a Tamil Tiger rebel base in the country's volatile east, the military said, as the army and rebels exchanged artillery and mortar fire on the ground.
Air force planes struck a sea base in the east, said military spokesman Brig. Prasad Samarasinghe. He did not give details of the damage caused by the air raids or of any casualties.
The rebels made no immediate comment on the air attacks.
Also on Monday, government troops and insurgents exchanged artillery and mortar fire in the east.
``They (rebels) were firing artillery and mortars at our camps in the east over the past few days and we are retaliating,'' said Samarasinghe. But rebel military spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan said the army began firing from its side on Monday morning, targeting eastern villages under rebel control.
``The shelling is continuing and we expect some kind of offensive,'' Ilanthirayan said, adding that the military has closed roads leading to villages in rebel areas, limiting supplies of humanitarian aid.
There were no casualties reported in the exchange. Both sides accused each other of initiating the attack, and it was impossible to independently verify the information.
Samarasinghe claimed last week that the rebels are planning a major offensive in the east.
Monday's air raid was the fourth in as many days after talks broke down a week ago over the reopening of a major highway connecting a Tamil-dominated area in the north with the rest of the country.
Fighting has increased since government and rebel negotiators returned from peace talks in Geneva, Switzerland, on Oct. 28-29 without any agreement, even on when to talk again.
Over the last week, the air force has carried out air raids on three consecutive days on rebel held areas in the northeast.
The negotiations in Geneva were aimed at reviving a 2002 cease-fire accord that had halted 19 years of fighting. The agreement has all but disintegrated in a resurgence of violence that has killed at least 2,000 people this year.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, have been fighting since 1983 for a separate homeland for ethnic Tamils in the north and east of Sri Lanka, citing discrimination by the majority Sinhalese. More than 65,000 people were killed before the cease-fire.
Separately, the military said that the Tamil Tiger guerrillas on Sunday attacked a military observation post in the port town of Trincomalee in the country's east, wounding two soldiers.
The military has recently increased the number of observation posts in Trincomalee after Tamil rebels attacked a major Sri Lankan navy base there.
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Published: Mon Nov 6 10:57:54 EST 2006