Sri Lanka stepped up air attacks against suspected rebel targets in the island’s north yesterday, a day after ground troops recaptured a highly strategic town, the defense ministry said.
Mi-24 helicopter gunships and fighter jets were deployed to pound defense lines of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on the Jaffna Peninsula and on the mainland, the defense ministry said.
“[The] Sri Lanka air force has launched a series of air strikes in support of ground troops in the Muhamalai area,” the ministry said in a statement.
The attacks came a day after Sri Lanka’s president asked Tamil Tiger rebels to surrender after troops said they had retaken the town of Pooneryn from the separatist guerrillas following months of heavy fighting.
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse said in a televised address to the nation that security forces took Pooneryn and the main northwestern coastal A-32 route on Saturday morning. The town was taken by troops after several failed attempts during 15 years of Tiger occupation.
Military officials said the fall of Pooneryn was a severe blow to the Tigers who were defending their main de facto capital of Kilinochchi, further southeast, amid a multi-pronged military thrust.
“Despite all their efforts, they failed in their bid to hold Pooneryn,” the Sunday Times defense analyst Iqbal Athas said. “That it was a humiliating defeat for the guerrillas came from radio intercepts from the battle field.”
The fall of Pooneryn shrank Tiger territory by about half and prevented the rebels from using the northwestern seaboard to smuggle weapons and other supplies by boat from India, military officials said.
They said the bigger advantage for the military was the removal of Tiger artillery guns at Pooneryn, which had been used to hit the main Palaly airbase in the Jaffna Peninsula and disrupted regular military flights.
The military has not given details of losses suffered by either side in the battle for Pooneryn, but Athas said both sides had suffered “very heavy casualties” in the fighting.
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
AUSTRALIAN SITE: China has had a contract with SSC’s Yatharagga station since at least 2011, but the last time it used it was in June 2013. No final date has been given China would lose access to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia when its contract expires, the facility’s owners said, a decision that cuts into Beijing’s expanding space exploration and navigational capabilities in the Pacific region. The Swedish Space Corp (SSC) has had a contract allowing Beijing access to the satellite antenna at the station since at least 2011. The station is located next to an SSC satellite station primarily used by the US and its agencies, including NASA. The Swedish state-owned company said it would not enter into any new contracts at the Australian site to support Chinese customers after
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime. The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time. When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday. “For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big