Aug. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Sri Lanka`s rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam attacked a navy camp near the eastern port of Trincomalee in the first air raid on a major target since an assault on an air force base in the north a year ago.
The aircraft dropped two bombs into the navy camp at about 9 p.m. Sri Lankan time yesterday, wounding four sailors, the Defense Ministry said on its Web site. TamilNet reported the raid, citing unidentified navy officials and said the LTTE
hasn`t confirmed the attack.
``Machine gun fire caused the aircraft to make away without entering into the naval dockyard,`` the Defense Ministry said. ``The navy base had been alarmed about the approaching terror aircraft by the Sri Lankan air force.``
Sri Lanka`s army and air force are driving LTTE forces from their last strongholds in the north after capturing the eastern region in July last year. That was the worst defeat for the Tamil Tigers in their 25-year struggle for a separate homeland in the north and east of the South Asian island.
The LTTE revealed it had an air wing in March 2007 when aircraft flew 200 kilometers (125 miles) from their base in the north to attack a military installation near the capital, Colombo. A second raid took place on an oil storage site and gas plant near the city in April that year.
Raid on Base
Last October, aircraft raided an air force base at Anuradhapura in the north, supporting a ground attack by the LTTE`s ``Black Tigers` unit that is used for suicide missions.
As many as 10 servicemen were killed and eight military aircraft and helicopters destroyed. The raid caused as much as $40 million in damage, TamilNet said at the time, citing international press reports.
The military says the LTTE`s air wing consists of five propeller-driven aircraft.
The unit`s last raid took place in April this year when two light aircraft dropped three bombs near military targets as they were chased away by air force interceptors, the military said at the time. There were no casualties in the incident, it said.
The air force lost some training aircraft in the attack on Anuradhapura and damaged planes have been replaced, Air Marshal Roshan Goonetileke
, the air force commander, said in an interview with the Daily News published on the Defense Ministry`s Web site last week.
Sri Lanka`s air defenses are ``very much effective,`` Goonetileke said in the interview.
``There is a little bit of work to be done in certain areas, but I can confidently say that we have covered all the important areas,`` he said. The air force can deal ``effectively`` with the LTTE`s aerial threat.
Sri Lanka`s military has carried out almost daily attacks on the Tamil Tigers in the north since ending a 2002 cease-fire in January, including air raids on the rebel headquarters at Kilinochchi. The army estimates the LTTE still has about 5,000 personnel in bases in the jungle.
LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was hurt in an air raid on Kilinochchi, the government said in December. S.P. Thamilchelvan
, head of the political wing, died in a Nov. 2 air raid near the headquarters and the group`s military intelligence chief was killed Jan. 6.
The army last month overran Vidattaltivu, the main base of the LTTE`s Sea Tigers naval unit in the region. Soldiers in June secured the main rice-producing area in Mannar in the north, a key supply route for the rebels.
The air force has targeted the LTTE ``very systematically,`` attacking its leaders, training and military bases and ammunition stores, Goonetileke said last week.
``Their fighting capability, their morale and the will to fight have gone down,`` he said.
The army offensives and bombing raids have forced more than 113,000 people from their homes in northern villages, the LTTE`s Peace Secretariat said earlier this month. The group has accused the air force of dropping bombs in civilian areas and says the army operations amount to genocide.
Civilians are being assisted in the north, Sri Lanka`s government said last week.
``Urgent measures have been taken to provide adequate food and shelter to the displaced people and additional facilities are being constructed in government-controlled areas,`` the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The LTTE is designated a terrorist group by India
, the U.S. and European Union. The conflict has claimed the lives of more than 70,000 people.
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Last Updated: August 26, 2008 21:03 EDT