‘Flying Tigers’ trigger Lanka alert

Colombo, November 14:

Sri Lanka blacked out its capital early today and activated air defences over fears that Tamil Tiger rebels were flying their light aircraft in for an attack, officials said.

The power supply was cut off before dawn for nearly half an hour while anti-aircraft guns opened up further north after ground troops said they had spotted suspected rebel planes, the officials said.

“The electricity in Colombo was shut down as part of the air raid alert,” a military official said, explaining that potential targets would otherwise have been illuminated for a bombing run.

The Sri Lankan air force, however, denied that Tigers had been in the air and said the firing was part of a “rehearsal.” The rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) declined to comment.

“We are checking with our air force,” LTTE spokesman Rasiah Ilanthiriyan said over phone from the rebel-held town of Kilinochchi.

The Tigers are known to operate at least two Czech-built Zlin-143 light aircraft out of the rebel-held north of the island and have already carried out several bombing raids.

Meanwhile, ground fighting was continuing in the north, with the defence ministry reporting that security forces shot dead at least 10 Tamil Tiger guerrillas in separate ground attacks in the 24 hours ending today. No independent confirmation of the claim was available.