Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka rebels claim they would use air assets

COLOMBO, Jun 7, 2005 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- The Tamil Tiger rebels in Sri Lanka for the first time announced Tuesday that they would put into use their air capability.

The head of the political wing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) S.P. Thamilselvan told reporters in the rebel-held Kilinochchi district on Tuesday that they would be using their ground troops, naval unit and its "air force" to provide security to their cadres in traveling through the government controlled areas in the war-torn north and east provinces.

The action would be resorted to in view of government refusal to provide security, Thamilselvan said.

The Tiger air capability has drawn concerns of the Indian and US governments.

The Indian government feels that the LTTE's air capability could pose serious security threats to the neighboring country.

As a result, the Indian government has offered Sri Lankan defense establishment training of personnel, guidance and advice in re-designing Sri Lanka's air defense network including the procurement of a new radar system.

The LTTE airstrip and its reported acquisition of aircraft were also noted with concern by the international truce monitors, the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM).

The SLMM has even accused the Tigers of denying access to their monitors to the airstrip.