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Cricket fans sent fleeing by Tiger air raids

Cricket fans sent fleeing by Tiger air raids

Tamil Tiger planes struck fuel depots around Sri Lanka's capital early yesterday, briefly plunging Colombo into darkness and sending cricket fans watching the World Cup final running for cover.
As explosions were heard and the night sky lit up with anti-aircraft fire, fans scrambled to leave parks and hotels where giant screens showing Sri Lanka playing Australia in the final in Barbados were switched off.
Officials said a fuel storage tank was destroyed in the raid.
Flights at the island's only international airport were disrupted as the air defense systems kicked in, officials said adding that one Indian jet was turned back while several departing flights were delayed.
It was the third time the separatist rebels have used light aircraft to hit military targets. The Bandaranaike International Airport shares a runway with the adjoining military base where war planes are parked.
"It was total panic because we initially thought it was fireworks," said Zaithoon Bin Ahamed who was partying with friends at a Colombo rugby club.
"Organizers were asking people to stay calm, but people were getting nervous over the constant sounds of gun fire. No one really knew what was going on," said Kamini Edward, who was at a hotel following the game which Australia won.
Targeting fuel
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam planes targeted two petroleum storage depots at the Colombo suburb of Kolonnawa and Muthurajawela, on the way to the airport, rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthiriyan said.
The defense ministry confirmed that the two facilities - one state-owned and the other run by the multi-national Shell - were hit by four Tiger bombs, but only two exploded at the Shell depot.
Officials at the Kolonnawa storage depot said one of the bombs scored a direct hit and destroyed a storage tank holding heavy furnace oil.
"The bomb had a lot of ball bearings which acted as pellets," an official at the facility said. "However, it did not have the capability to ignite a huge fire." The second bomb exploded in a marsh without causing any damage.
The Tigers said they staged the air attack after Sri Lankan war planes hit the rebel-held region of Kilinochchi, 330 kilometers north of here. Within an hour, the Tigers scrambled their aircraft to targets in Colombo and returned to their secret location inside rebel-held territory two hours later, he added.
Doctors said nine people were wounded during the anti-aircraft fire.
Sri Lanka deployed supersonic jets to hit back, air force spokesman Ajantha Silva said. "We have identified the locations where those (Tiger) aircraft landed and have bombed them successfully," Silva said.
The separatist Tigers, who observed an unofficial truce when Sri Lanka played New Zealand in the semi-finals, had earlier refused to say if they would hold fire for the final too.
The Tigers are believed to be operating five Czech-built Zlin-143 aircraft smuggled onto the island in pieces and re-assembled.


Updated : 2021-06-23 01:22 GMT+08:00