Lanka jets bomb Tiger area, civilians hurt

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Colombo, Sep 20: Sri Lankan fighter jets bombed a Tamil Tiger weapons store in the rebel-held far northeast sending fireballs into the sky, the military said today, but the guerrillas said the bombs damaged homes and wounded 6 civilians.

The raid near the town of Puthukkudiyiruppu in the northeastern district of Mullaittivu is the latest in a rash of aerial bombings amid a new chapter in a two-decade civil war marked by near daily land and sea battles and ambushes.

''Pilots have seen fireballs. It was an armaments as well as explosives dump which they have taken after doing long surveillance, and only once it was confirmed have they taken this (target),'' military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam meanwhile said on their Web site that the raid had damaged several homes, destroying one entirely and wounding the six people inside it.

Nanayakkara dismissed the LTTE's account of the incident as propaganda.

There was no independent confirmation of what was hit or who was wounded in the air strike. Nordic truce monitors had no immediate details.

Fighting is now focused in the island's north after the military captured swathes of territory from the rebels in the east earlier this year.

While the Tigers have carried out bombings, assassinations and suicide attacks, troops have gone on offensive forays across forward defence lines into rebel territory part of a strategy to defeat the insurgents militarily.

The island's main opposition party has distanced itself from a political bid to forge cross-party consensus on a devolution package aimed at ending a war that has killed more.

And while the rebels have lost control of a significant slice of territory in recent months, analysts warn they still retain their strike capability and few see a clear winner on the horizon, instead predicting the conflict will likely grind on for years.

Around 70,000 people have been killed since the war erupted in 1983.


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