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18 April 2024

Sri Lanka jets target Tiger leaders

By Agencies


Sri Lankan war planes bombed a suspected base of the top Tamil Tiger leader in the island's north Wednesday as ground attacks killed at least two rebels, the defence ministry said Wednesday.

Aircraft hit a base of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) at Iranamadu where the separatists have a clandestine airfield, the ministry said. It gave no details of casualties or damage.

Sri Lanka's military has already claimed either killing or wounding Tiger chieftain Velupillai Prabhakaran in previous air attacks inside rebel-held territory.

The guerrillas have made no comment, but released pictures of the Tiger leader at meetings with his fighters.

The latest air attack came as the defence ministry said two suspected Tiger rebels were shot dead in skirmishes just outside the guerrillas' de facto mini-state on Tuesday.

Since the start of this month, Sri Lanka's defence ministry has claimed government forces have killed 594 rebels against just 26 soldiers dead. The military's claims cannot be independently verified.

The report came a day after President Mahinda Rajapakse defended his decision to withdraw from a tattered 2002 truce with the LTTE, but revealed he had no plans to advance into territory held by the guerrillas.

Rajapakse also stressed that he did not believe in a military solution to the drawn-out Tamil separatist campaign. But he said he would not negotiate with the LTTE until they stopped their armed struggle.

The remarks were in sharp contrast to prior statements from the military and even Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse -- his own brother -- vowing to seize the rebels' mini-state and eliminate the guerrilla leadership.

The government pulled out of the Norwegian-brokered truce with the rebels this month, underscoring its own sentiment of having gained the upper hand in the conflict. (AFP)