Tigers bomb Air Force base, 4 killed, 2 helicopters damaged

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Colombo, Oct 22 (UNI) At least four Sri Lankan Air Force personnel were killed and two MI-24 helicopters damaged in a pre-dawn attack by Tamil Tiger rebels on an air base at the North-Central Anuradhapura district, the military said.

At least four Air Force personnel were killed and eight others wounded in the pre-dawn LTTE attack, Sri Lankan Air Force spokesman Ajantha Silva said.

A group of LTTE rebels infiltrated the Anuradhapura SLAF Base and launched the initial attack around 0320 hrs local time. A few minutes later at least two LTTE light aircrafts bombed the base, destroying two MI-24 helicopters, military spokesman Brig Udaya Nanayakkara told UNI over the phone.

The LTTE aircraft are believed to have come from the northern Vavuniya direction and dropped at least two bombs on the Air Force base, Brig Nanayakkara said.

He said a massive joint rescue operation by the armed forces and the police was on to bring the situation under control.

Meanwhile, LTTE military spokesman Irasiah Ilanthirayan told a pro-LTTE website, Tamilnet.com that they have launched an air and ground attack on Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) air base in Anuradhapura in the early hours today.

This is the first time the Tigers have combined both air and ground attack, the rebel spokesman has been quoted as saying.

According to another pro-LTTE Tamil language website, Puthinam.com, at least six Sri Lankan Air Force supersonic jets have carried out air raids in the rebel-held Wanni region around 0530 hrs local time.

Anuradhapura is an ancient sacred Buddhist city attracting thousands of local and foreign tourist right throughout the year.

This is the fifth time that the LTTE light wing aircraft have carried out an air attack this year. The last attack was carried out on April 28 in Colombo, targeting oil and gas supply stations.

Subsequent to the LTTE's April air strike, the government said it has acquired anti-aircraft systems and guns and vowed to destroy the LTTE air force completely.

UNI

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