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LTTE aircraft bomb Sri Lanka's military base
March 26, 2007 08:21 IST
In a pre-dawn attack, Tamil Tiger rebels on Monday bombed Sri Lanka's main military airbase located next to the international airport, leaving at least two persons dead and 17 wounded.
The rebels used two light aircraft to attack the Katunayake military airbase, about 35 kilometres north of Colombo.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam deployed aircraft for the first time in a combat mission to attack the military base, rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthiriyan said.
"This mission was undertaken to reduce the air capability of the Sri Lankan air force," he said.
Sri Lanka's military admitted that the Tigers had used their aircraft for the first time and bombed the airbase where two persons were killed and another 17 wounded.
Ilathiriyan said the LTTE will carry out similar attacks to reduce the strike capability of the air force.
A hangar and two parked helicopters were also damaged in the attack.
The government said the Bandaranaike international airport, which shares a boundary with the airbase, was not affected by the attack.
Sri Lanka's foreign ministry spokesman Ravinatha Aryasinha said the airport was closed temporarily as a precaution.
"There is no damage to the international airport or the runway," Aryasinha said. "Flights were suspended only as a precautionary measure."
After two hours, the airport was reopened.
At least four explosions were heard from the Katunayake airbase, local residents said. Passengers aboard flights ready to take off from the international airport were asked to disembark as the airport was shut.
Roads leading to the airport were closed and people trying to catch flights out of the country were turned back by police, residents said.
Motorists and residents said they heard gunfire and several blasts near the international airport, sparking fears of a repeat of the July 2001 attack.
Tamil Tiger rebels entered the airbase on July 24, 2001 and destroyed more than a dozen military aircraft and then attacked six civilian aircraft parked at the airport before detonating explosives strapped to their bodies.
About 20 people were killed in that attack.