Sri Lanka air force helicopters hit Tiger islet

November 8, 2008 (AFP) – Helicopter gunships launched a rare night assault against a suspected Tamil Tiger base located on a small islet off Sri Lanka’s Jaffna peninsula, the defence ministry said on Saturday. The air force Mi-24 gunships attacked a “gathering point” of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) at Palaitivu, just on the southwestern side of the Jaffna peninsula on Friday night, the ministry said.

There were no immediate details of casualties. There was also no comment from the Tigers.

The attack came as ground troops stepped up an offensive against the rebels in the northern mainland in a bid to capture the Tiger political capital of Kilinochchi, 330 kilometres (just over 200 miles) north of Colombo.

“Troops are forcing the LTTE to flee in total disarray as the military surge continues with strong determination,” the ministry said.

The defence ministry has stopped releasing casualty figures saying it does not want to affect ongoing operations.

Tens of thousands of people have died on both sides since 1972, when the LTTE launched its campaign to carve out an independent state in the Sinhalese-majority island of 20 million people.