The emergence of the Tamil Tigers as the world's first rebel outfit with its own planes could be a threat to South Asian security, Sri Lanka's president said on Tuesday.
The rebels on Monday successfully flew over the island's main military airbase and escaped unscathed after dropping several bombs.
"The LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) using combat aircraft is not only a problem for us. It is a threat to other nations too," President Mahinda Rajapaksa was quoted as saying by his office.
Rajapaksa has also ordered an investigation into the major security lapses that allowed the attack — which has seriously embarrassed the island's defence establishment — to take place even though the planes were spotted on radar.
"Ours is not the only country facing a terrorist threat. At a time when India, Indonesia and several other countries face this problem, it is significant that the LTTE has acquired an air capability," the president said.
Military analysts say the Tigers, who are known to possess at least two Czech-built Zlin-143 single-engine four-seater aircraft and an airfield, could be the world's first rebel outfit to use its own planes in a combat role.
In May last year, Sri Lanka's airforce bombed the rebel airfield at Iranamadu, in the rebel-held Wanni region. The Tigers had also denied access to the area to Scandanavian truce monitors.
Despite a February 2002 truce arranged by peace broker Norway, both the Tigers and government forces have been locked in a new wave of fighting since December 2005.