M A I N   N E W S

Suicide attack on Lanka army camp; 9 killed

Colombo, March 27
A Tamil Tiger suicide bomber tried to blow up an army camp in Sri Lanka on Tuesday, killing nine persons a day after rebels had carried out their first air strike since fighting erupted in 1983. The military said troops shot the suicide bomber as he tried to drive an explosives-laden tractor into the camp in the eastern district of Batticaloa, setting off an explosion which killed him, three soldiers and five civilians and wounded 13 others.

The military responded to the attacks with a second consecutive day of air strikes across the Tiger-held territory, saying that it had destroyed artillery and mortar positions, but there were no immediate details of any casualties.

"We suspect there were more than 200 kg (440 lbs) of explosives in the tractor," said military spokesman Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe. "You can't find even a piece of the trailer. If it had come into the camp, it would have been a major disaster."

The LTTE was not immediately available for comment on Tuesday's attack. The military is still investigating how the Tigers managed to fly a light aircraft over the capital undetected, drop bombs and fly back to their northern stronghold without being shot down -- their first such raid since the civil war began.

The Tigers said more such attacks by its air wing would follow, threatening to deepen the renewed conflict in the island state off. The government aims to destroy all rebel military assets, but says the door to resume peace talks remains open — which the rebels laughed off. — Reuters



LTTE, now a ‘global threat’
Chandani Kirinde writes from Colombo

The Sri Lanka government has said the air attack on its base by the LTTE is a threat not only to the country but also to the world.

"The air power of the LTTE poses a grave threat aimed not only at Sri Lanka but also to the entire South Asian region, "a statement, issued by 12 political parties that met with President Mahinda Rajapakse hours after the attack, said.

The statement called upon the international community to make a proper assessment of this danger and draw its attention to all actions taken locally and abroad by the group in Sri Lanka.

The President, in his address, made mention of India and Indonesia as countries facing the threat of terrorism similar to that of Sri Lanka. "At a time when terrorism manifests itself in different ways, the LTTE’s air strike capability will become a threat to the international community," he said.

The meeting was not attended by the main opposition United National Party (UNP) but it’s leader Ranil Wickemasinghe issued a separate statement, asking the President to immediately summon Parliament to discuss the grave threat.

The attack caught the government and the military off guard and is a major blow at a time when the military is scoring several victories over the LTTE in the eastern province. The air force has been at the forefront of the attacks bombing several LTTE camps in the east as well as the north.

But despite the successes, the question now being asked is how did such a serious security lapse been allowed to take place.

The Sri Lanka air force has moved quickly to begin two separate investigations into possible security lapses at the air force base at Katunayaka, which is adjoining the Bandaranaike International Air Port.

Government spokesman Anura Yapa said the LTTE did not get their targets and no military aircraft were destroyed in the attack. However no journalists have been allowed into the base since the attack even though the air force said only damage had been caused to two buildings.

This attack is likely to be a further blow to the country’s tourism industry as well which has seen a drop in arrivals since the hostilities between the government troops and the LTTE escalated last September.



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