Sri Lanka
Rebel-raided Colombo airport to be normal soon: official
Mar 26, 2007 - 10:28:47 PM

Colombo, March 26 - The Sri Lankan government Monday said that the country's only international airport will be back to normal very soon after being affected in an air raid carried out by suspected Tamil Tigers rebels on a major air force base next to it.

'I think within the next 24 hours we should be back to normal,' said Chandima Rasaputra, chairman of the Airport and Aviation.

Rasaputra said several flights had been diverted to India after the nearby Katunayake air force base was attacked by an aircraft of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam - at about 12:45 a.m. local time.

The LTTE aircraft dropped three bombs at the hangers accommodating the Air Force's MiG fighter jets that are used to raid Tamil Tiger positions in the north and east.

Air force spokesman Ajantha Silva said three airmen were killed and 17 were injured by the explosion of two of the three bombs.

The third bomb didn't explode, said the spokesman, adding that none of the aircraft had suffered damage and that only buildings had been hit.

This was the first such air raid carried out by the LTTE in the nearly three-decade-old separatist armed conflict in the island.

The LTTE in a statement issued immediately after the attack said that their two aircraft had returned safely to their bases in the north.

This was the second attack by the LTTE at the air base housed next to the Bandaranaike International Airport, about 35 km north of the capital Colombo.

In the July 2001 attack they destroyed 13 commercial and military aircraft.

The incident came as government troops and LTTE rebels were locked in fierce battles in the island country's north and east.

More than 4,000 people have been killed since December 2005 despite a Norwegian-arranged truce in place.

The LTTE has been fighting for an independent homeland for Sri Lanka's 12.5 percent Tamil minority since the 1970s.

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