Sri Lanka: Tamil rebels attack air base

Twenty-four aircraft of the Sri Lankan air force were damaged or destroyed during an attack on the Anuradhapura air base, in Sri Lanka's North Central Province, carried out by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam on October 22. The LTTE has for several decades been fighting for self-determination for Sri Lanka's Tamil minority, in response to the discrimination and violent repression carried out against the Tamil people by a series of racist Sri Lankan governments that have drawn their support from the island's Sinhalese majority.

The attack involved both a ground assault by a group of 21 LTTE commandos and an aerial bombardment by two propeller-driven planes. According to the Sri Lankan Sunday Times, 10 government planes were totally destroyed and 14 damaged, some beyond repair.

The Sri Lankan Daily Mirror commented that "the attack made a mockery of the Sri Lankan government's propaganda war". The government had claimed to be winning the war against the LTTE.

The LTTE commandos, who occupied the base for seven hours, all died in the attack. The military stripped their bodies naked and displayed them to a crowd of mainly Sinhalese residents near the base. Media reports of this incident provoked widespread outrage. In response, the Sri Lankan army denied that the bodies were naked and claimed photos taken of the event were doctored.

The behaviour of the government troops reflects the brutal and racist mentality that prevails within the military as a result of their role as an army of occupation attempting to suppress the Tamil struggle for self-determination.

LTTE spokesperson Rasiah Ilanthiraiyan said that, by displaying the naked bodies publicly, the military had "broken not only the Geneva Convention, but also norms observed by decent militaries all over the world". The LTTE has a policy of handing over the bodies of dead Sri Lankan soldiers to the International Committee of the Red Cross for return to their families, wherever this is practical. On October 14, for example, the bodies of three soldiers killed when a Sri Lankan army patrol boat was sunk off the coast of Jaffna peninsula were handed over to the ICRC.

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