Sri Lankan war planes pound rebels after bus blast

Aug 1, 2006 (AFP) – Sri Lankan warplanes and artillery pounded Tiger rebel positions Tuesday after one of the bloodiest days in the island’s recent history left 67 combatants dead and made a mockery of a ceasefire. The Tamil Tigers have been waging a violent secessionist campaign since the 1970s to secure an independent homeland in the northeast of Sri Lanka for the minority Tamil population. Official said Israeli-built Kfir jets carried out bombing sorties around dawn Tuesday near the Maavilaru irrigation canal in northeastern Trincomalee district which the rebels blocked 10 days ago, sparking bitter fighting.

“We can’t say how long it will take for us to open the sluice gates,” government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella told reporters. “We have to move very cautiously.”

The military has said it suspects the area is heavily mined and booby-trapped.

Rambukwella said troops were engaged in “consolidation” Tuesday while continuing long range artillery attacks against Tiger targets.

The rebels hit back with mortar fire, military sources said, adding that there were no immediate reports of casualties on either side Tuesday.

The latest air attacks came just hours after the rebels were held responsible