In a stunning attack,two light aircraft of the beleaguered LTTE tonight bombed Colombo hitting Sri Lanka’s main Revenue Department building near the Air Force Headquarters killing at least two persons before they were brought down by the military.
Shortly after the bombing around 9.30 PM(local time),Sri Lanka’s air force gave chase to the two aircraft and shot down one of them,military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said.
He said the wreckage and the body of the pilot were recovered near Katunayake air base. A spokesman of the Sri Lankan government said the situation was under control nearly three hours after the surprise strike which also hit the Army Headquarters ground.
Forty-two persons were also injured and rushed to hospitals many of them with shrapnel wounds and splinter injuries. A Defence spokesman Lakshman Hullugalle said two of the injured succumbed.
Amid reports that the two planes could be on a suicide mission by the rebels,a defence ministry statement said the second aircraft was disabled by the anti air gunfire reportedly and crashed on the Inland Revenue building. The building suffered slight damages.
The island nation was put on high alert in the wake of what is being described as a desperate attempt by the Tigers to carry out surprise strikes that has come as an embarrassment to the government which had claimed to have destroyed all the rebels’ hidden runways and rendered its small air wing powerless.
Colombo’s International airport was soon closed down following the dramatic air raid and flights diverted to India. Tonight’s raid was the first bombing attack on the capital since October,when a power station on the outskirts of Colombo was hit.
“Two aircrafts have entered Colombo and dropped at least two bombs near the Army Headquarters ground,” eyewitnesses said.
The attack came even as the Sri Lankan army were pressing the Tamil Tiger rebels into a narrow area of jungle in the north of Sri Lanka.
Following the explosions on the ground,sounds of anti-aircraft gunfire were heard triggering a wave of panic in the city.
Power supply was shut down in the capital when the Air Force detected enemy planes on the radar. The supply was restored shortly thereafter.
A pro-LTTE website said the rebels’ air wing has carried out the attack which has resulted in injuries including to five of its cadre.
On November six last year,the Sri Lankan Air Force and the army went on high alert following reports of an LTTE aircraft hovering around northern Vavuniya.
“The aircraft disappeared from the radars after it reached some two kilometers close to Vavuniya. Since then there were no clues about the aircraft though the military was on high alert for few more hours.
An LTTE mini aircraft had dropped two low-intensity bombs at a power station in the Sri Lankan capital immediately after attacking an army camp in Mannar late last October.
On the same night,prior to the Colombo air attack,an LTTE light aircraft dropped three bombs targeting the Thallady Army camp in North-western Mannar causing minor injuries to three army soldiers,according to the military.
The Tigers prior to that carried out an air and ground attack on a military camp in the northern town of Vavuniya in September,killing 11 Sri Lankan soldiers.
The LTTE is believed to have at least three Czech-built Zlin ZO 143’s light aircrafts which were likely acquired between April and July,2006.
The LTTE air force came into prominence when it struck the Sri Lankan military air base inside Colombo’s international airport in March,2007.