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Another LTTE air raid on govt forces, 32 killed
Chandani Kirinde writes from Colombo

Monday’s early morning raid on a strategic air base in northern Sri Lanka via both air and land by Tamil Tigers has once again proven that the LTTE is far from being a spent force despite recent military set backs the group has suffered in the north and east of the country at the hands of the Sri Lanka military.

The attack on the air base at Anuradhapura, 210 km north of Colombo, left nine air force personnel and 23 members of LTTE suicide cadres dead. Two Russian built MI 24 helicopter gunships and a K8 aircraft on ground were also destroyed, the military said.

Hours after the attack, government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella called a press conference to say the attack was the sign of desperation on the part of the LTTE in the face of major gains by the military and vowed to continue the campaign to rid the country of the menace of the Tigers.

Despite the words of defiance, this latest attack is likely to shake the military establishment from its sense of complacency that has sent in during the past six months when troops managed to rid the entire east of the Tigers and confine them to only Kilinochchi district in the north of the country.

The lack of resistance from the Tigers during the eastern campaign as well as a decline in their attacks on military, political, economic or civilian targets in the past few months lead many senior members in the government as well as the military to state that the Tigers are on the run.

However, the least air-cum-ground attack on a highly guarded air base is likely to shake off the sense of complacency and make then take the Tiger threat more seriously.

This air attack was the third by the LTTE, the first two being in Colombo earlier this year. Soon after those attacks, the government assured that radar equipment had been out in place to detect any on coming LTTE aircraft but when asked about these at Monday’s press briefing, the spokesman chose not to address these queries.

Soon after the attack, the LTTE released a photo of 21 fighters taken with the Tigers’ leader; Velupillai Prabhakaran, on the pro-LTTE website and said they were the ones who took part in the raid on the camp. The LTTE said they belonged to the Tigers suicide squad known as the Black Tigers.

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