Shelling kills 54 civilians in Lanka
Two Sri Lankan air force helicopters narrowly escaped after the LTTE fired SAM missiles at them over the north-eastern battle zone of Mullaitivu. Meanwhile, agency reports, quoting a medical official in the no-fire zone, said at least 54 civilians were killed in shelling, reports Sutirtho Patranobis.world Updated: Mar 26, 2009 01:04 IST
Two Sri Lankan air force (SLAF) helicopters on Wednesday narrowly escaped after the LTTE fired surface-to-air (SAM) missiles at them over the north-eastern battle zone of Mullaitivu.
This was the first time in recent months that the rebels fired advanced missiles at SLAF choppers, which were evacuating injured military personnel.
Meanwhile, agency reports, quoting a medical official in the no-fire zone, said at least 54 civilians were killed in shelling on Wednesday.
Dr. Thurairaja Varatharajah, a top government health official in the area, added that 165 injured people were in a makeshift hospital in the war zone. Varatharajah said, “We are still receiving wounded people.’’ He did not specify whether the government or the rebels were responsible for the deaths.
On the air attack, the defence ministry quoting Air Force spokesman, Wing Commander Janaka Nanayakkara, said that the pilots of the Bell-212 choppers “managed to take the injured personnel to safety from the risk imposed with evasive air maneuvers (by) evading the missile attack”.
“Both helicopters carrying injured soldiers, however, continued their mission despite the barrage of LTTE missiles,” the military said in a report, adding that the choppers with injured soldiers aboard arrived at their destinations as planned.
“LTTE terrorists have fired the missiles from the government declared No Fire Zone,” the air force spokesman said.
The military said that the LTTE were now confined within 26.5 square kilometre land area in the north-eastern Mullaitivu district.