Military officials in Sri Lanka said they shot down a Tamil Tiger aircraft near the Colombo International Airport on Friday, in an air engagement with rebels that killed two people and left about 50 wounded.
Sri Lankan officials claimed both planes were shot down by the Sri Lankan Air Force, SLAF, refuting the Tiger’s claim they were conducting suicide missions in the country’s capital. A spokesperson for the Sri Lankan Military said the body of a Tamil Tiger guerrilla was found by the plane’s wreckage after it was shot down near the Colombo International Airport. The other plane, which entered the capital of Colombo, dropped a bomb but crashed into the offices of the Department of Inland Revenue, two blocks away from Air Force Headquarters, a military spokesman said. According to the Sri Lanka’s Lankapuvath news agency, the country’s air defense was activated at 9:30 p.m.( 11 a.m ET) Friday after receiving information that two of the rebels light aircrafts were circulating over Colombo. “Both aircrafts were brought down by air force firing,” Lankapuvath reported. “The dead body of the LTTE pilot was also found strewn about.” The news agency said 50 people were admitted to Colombo General Hospital due to injuries from the crash. Two died from their wounds.
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Explainer: Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers
According to the pro-Tamil Tiger Web site Tamil.net.com, two Black Air Tiger Pilots — the group’s elite squadron –died after carrying out diving missions into Sri Lanka’s air force headquarters in Colombo and an air force base in Katunayaka. CNN could not independently verify the claims made by the rebels or the government. In a report released on Thursday, Human Rights Watch criticized the Sri Lankan government for its “indiscriminate” killings of civilian as it attempts to fight the rebel movement. As the rebel stronghold continues to shrink, civilians are trapped in the cross-fire, HRW said. “Sri Lankan forces are shelling hospitals and so-called safe zones and slaughtering the civilians there,” James Ross, legal and policy director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. HRW also condemned the Tamil Tigers for its treatment of civilians.
The organization’s 45-page study said 2,000 civilians have been killed and another 5,000 have been wounded. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) — commonly known as the Tamil Tigers — have fought for an independent homeland for the country’s ethnic Tamil minority since 1983. The civil war has left more than 70,000 people dead.