Leading rebel leader missing after air raid: Sri Lankan military

Other News Materials 7 February 2009 19:41 (UTC +04:00)

Whereabouts of a leading member of the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were not known according to rebel radio communications monitored, defense officials said Saturday.

Wing Commander Janaka Nanayakkara, the Air Force spokesman said the Air Force's fighter bombers on Friday targeted a gathering point of LTTE leaders near Puthukudduyiruppu in the northern Mullaittivu district, Xinhua reported.

It was believed that the location was the residence of Soosai, the LTTE's sea wing leader.

Two senior leaders and 15 other rebels have died in the raids, Nanayakkara said, adding that Soosai might be among the killed.

Nanayakkara said five more air raids were taken on Saturday in the same area in support of the Army's 59 division who are conducting ground operations.

Meanwhile, government officials said some 7,400 internally displaced civilians who were trapped in the battle zone in the north have arrived in government controlled areas since January.

The LTTE has faced accusations of holding civilians as human shields in the conflict against the troops.

Aid agencies say over 230,000 people are trapped in the areas but the government says the figure does not exceed 120,000.

The LTTE has lost most of its strongholds as a result of the government's military offensive started in July 2006.

Claiming discrimination at the hands of Sinhalese dominated governments, the LTTE has been fighting for more than two decades to carve out a Tamil homeland in the north and east for the minority Tamils.

More than 70,000 people have been killed so far in Asia's longest civil war.