Sri Lanka steps up air attacks against Tigers

December 19, 2008 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s air force Friday stepped up strikes on Tamil Tiger positions in the island’s north as ground battles subsided due to heavy rains, military officials said. Aircraft carried out half a dozen raids around Kilinochchi, the political capital of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), an air force official said.

“We have carried out six missions around Kilinochchi this morning in support of ground troops,” the official said. He had no immediate details of casualties.

Elsewhere, helicopter gunships Friday attacked a cluster of rebel boats in the northern area of Kilalli, “inflicting maximum damage,” air force spokesman Janaka Nanayakkara said.

Military officials said infantry battles had slowed in the past two days because of rains as well as intense battles earlier in the week when both sides suffered heavy losses.

The LTTE has said that it had repelled a multi-pronged offensive by government forces, killing 170 soldiers and wounding 420 Tuesday and Wednesday.

The military rejected the rebel claims and said it lost only 25 soldiers and placed rebel losses at 120 killed and 250 wounded.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s g