Ed Johnson and Anusha Ondaatjie, Bloomberg
Sydney/Colombo: Sri Lanka’s military said it destroyed three rebel bases using fighter jets and navy gun ships yesterday after the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) carried out its first bombing raid with a new air unit.
The military destroyed a camp belonging to the Tamil Tiger naval force near Mannar in the northwest of the country, the Ministry of Defense said on its Web site. A camp used by the LTTE’s intelligence wing near Vavuniya in the northern Jaffna region and a base near Ampara in the east were also destroyed.
The LTTE, which has been fighting for two decades for a separate homeland in areas it controls, made no immediate comment on the attacks on its official Web site.
Sri Lanka’s peace process collapsed last year as fighting escalated in the north and east of the country and two rounds of talks failed in Geneva. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki- moon yesterday appealed to both sides in the conflict to “break this vicious cycle of attack and retaliation” and return to peace talks.
The military destroyed “heavy caliber guns” at the Sudolaipidai base north of Mannar which the LTTE used against the army a few days earlier, the Defense Ministry said. Artillery was also destroyed at the base south of Thoppigala near Ampara, the ministry added.
No aircraft were damaged when the LTTE attacked an air force base at Katunayake, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the capital, Colombo, two days ago, the ministry said.
The raid by two light-wing aircraft was the first attack by a new air wing known as the Air Tigers, TamilNet reported. The group has an estimated 12,000 fighters, including a 4,000-strong naval force known as the Sea Tigers.
The air raid at Katunayake killed three air force servicemen and wounded 16, the Defense Ministry said two days ago. Passenger terminals at the nearby Bandaranaike International Airport, Colombo’s main airport, closed for several hours while security checks were carried out and some flights were diverted.
Tamil Tiger rebels killed two soldiers and four civilians yesterday in a suicide attack on an army camp in the eastern district of Batticaloa, the ministry said on its Web site.
Ban “deeply regrets that air raids, military confrontations on the ground and suicide bombings have become a daily occurrence, prompting massive displacement and suffering for civilians,” according to a statement from his spokeswoman, Michele Montas, on the UN Web site.
The government and LTTE should “return to the negotiating table as soon as possible, without preconditions,” he said.
Fighting in the past six months forced as many as 200,000 civilians from their homes, the UN said earlier this month.
Almost 4,000 people have been killed in violence in the past 15 months, compared with 130 deaths related to the conflict in the three previous years, the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission said last month. The Norwegian-led group observes a cease-fire reached between the government and Tamil Tigers in 2002.
The LTTE, classified as a terrorist organization by the US, the European Union and India, has accused the government of trying to impose a military solution rather than agree to a political settlement. The army has captured 16 rebel bases in the northeast since January and began offensives recently near the eastern port of Batticaloa.