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Tamil Tiger Planes Bomb Sri Lankan Capital

Sri Lankan military officials say Tamil rebels carried out an aerial bombing raid in the capital of Colombo late Friday.

A military spokesman said that shortly after the bombing, Sri Lanka's air force chased two rebel light aircraft and shot down one of them. Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said the wreckage and the body of the pilot were recovered. One plane crashed into a tax building, killing at least two people and injuring 48 others.

Much of the city was blacked out briefly just before the attack as anti-aircraft fire lit up the night sky over Colombo and searchlights scanned for signs of more rebel planes.

Nanayakkara said at least one suspected Tamil Tiger aircraft attacked Colombo. One explosion was heard near the city's port, and another near the Cinnamon Grand, a luxury hotel in the heart of the city.

A third explosion was reported near the airport, about a 45-minute drive from the capital.

Nanayakkara said a government tax office had been hit by a bomb.

Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, the executive director for the Center for Policy Alternatives, says the attacks were a bold move by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE, most likely to show they are still a force to be reckoned with.

"Well, the LTTE clearly wants to show that they may be being knocked up, but they haven't been knocked out completely as yet and that they are capable of doing these things to cast some doubt on the extent to which their military capability has been destroyed," he said.

The attack comes as Sri Lanka's military closes in on what are believed to be the last of the rebel strongholds. Sri Lanka's government has claimed that the rebels are no longer capable of launching air attacks.

But security forces in the capital were on alert after a suspected Tiger Tamil aircraft was sighted northeast of capital just before the attack.