B. Muralidhar Reddy

Six soldiers killed; Palaly runway intact, says army

COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan military on Tuesday claimed to have successfully thwarted an air attack by the LTTE in the wee hours, near the Palaly Air Force base. It said six soldiers were killed when the Tigers fired at a military camp near the base.

This was the second attempt by the Tigers to bomb an air force base. The first was on March 26 targeting the main air base at Katunayake close to the Colombo International Airport.

A military statement described as "complete fabrication" the Tigers' claim that they bombed the Palaly airstrip by using two propeller-driven fixed winged aircraft.

It said troops had successfully repulsed the LTTE attempt to breach the High Security Air Zone. "The security forces acted promptly, alerted through the air defence systems, and launched a counter air offensive at a suspected aircraft, detected in the skies off Tondamannar, forcing it to change course immediately."

Observation units

The statement said observation units in the Point Pedro area confirmed that the fleeing aircraft had dropped two bombs in the Myladdi area. Unable to make through the anti-air gunfire support from the troops, the aircraft had changed course and headed to the unliberated Mullattivu area, it said.

The military said the LTTE launched heavy artillery fire towards the Palaly general area from Pooneryn in the uncleared Kilinochchi district following the unsuccessful air attack but was silenced in retaliatory heavy firing. "The exposed bogus reporting is another incident of the LTTE misleading the world community; an effort of the LTTE to gain undue propaganda mileage to their terrorist activities. The discrepancies in the reporting of pro-LTTE websites have become a phenomenal error in their cause of mediation. This type of `untruth' is resorted to win the confidence of people elsewhere in the world."TamilNet reported that the "two attack aircraft" bombed the military's main base complex "inflicting heavy damage and casualties".

LTTE military spokesman Irasiah Ilanthirayan told TamilNet that "Tamileelam air force bombers" had hit an engineering unit of the complex and a military storage.

Mr. Ilanthirayan claimed that the two aircraft returned to their base in the LTTE-controlled Vanni. Air force spokesman, Group. Cap. Ajantha Silva, told media in Colombo that their runway in Palaly was intact. Five civilians were killed and over 30 injured when the LTTE allegedly blew off a Colombo-bound bus in Vavuniya on Monday.