Sri Lankan jets bomb Tamil rebels' naval headquarters, military says
Sat January 26, 2008 07:47 EST .
By Krishan Francis, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - Sri Lankan air force jets bombed the separatist Tamil rebels' naval headquarters Saturday while the group's sea wing leaders were holding a meeting there, the military said.
However, a pro-rebel website said the air strike hit the offices of a British aid agency in rebel-held Mullaitivu district.
Pilots said they struck the base near Puthukudiyiruppu village in Mullaitivu but did not provide any details about any damage, military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said.
The base was bombed on intelligence that the sea wing leaders were meeting there, Nanayakkara said, although he could not confirm that the guerrillas' powerful naval chief, known as Soosai, was at the base during the bombing.
Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan did not answer calls seeking comment on the military's claims. But the pro-rebel website Puthinam said an office of White Pigeon - which is involved in demining and designing prosthetics for landmine victims - was damaged in the raid, but did not report any casualties.
A spokesman at the agency's office in Britain told The Associated Press by phone that he had not heard of any damage to White Pigeon's offices in Sri Lanka. He declined to be named, citing the sensitivity of the situation.
The air raid was part of the government's ongoing campaign to kill the guerrillas' top brass and crush their decades-old separatist war.
In November, the air force killed the Tigers' political wing head, S.P. Tamilselvan, believed by many to have been the rebels' No. 2 leader.
The military later claimed that top rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran had been injured in another air raid. The guerrillas, however, denied he was hurt.
Fighting has raged around the rebels' de facto state in the north since the government announced earlier this month that it was pulling out of a Norwegian-brokered ceasefire, which had long been ignored by both sides.
More than 500 people have been killed since the ceasefire officially ended, according to the military.
A series of battles across Sri Lanka's north killed 17 guerrillas and one soldier Friday, the military said.
Clashes along the front lines in Vavuniya district, just south of the rebels' de facto state, left 13 Tamil Tigers dead, a defence ministry official said.
Separate clashes in nearby Mannar district killed four insurgents and one soldier, he said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
It was not possible to independently verify the military's claims because the fighting took place deep in the northern jungles, where access is restricted. Both sides often release inflated casualty figures for their opponents while lowering their own.
The Tigers have been fighting since 1983 for an independent state in the north and east for the country's ethnic Tamil minority after decades of being marginalized by Sinhalese-dominated governments. The fighting has killed more than 70,000 people.Discuss this story
Published: Sat Jan 26 08:31:38 EST 2008