Jaffna airline offices close

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 16 September 1998, 13:10 GMT]
An airline office in Jaffna closed up for business today following a note it had received from the Liberation Tigers said sources.

Officials of the Monara Airline were not immediately available for comments. But according to one of them, the note says "the planes of the airline are being used by the army for military purposes. We intend to attack these aircraft. You will therefore be responsible for any damage that may be sustained by civilians."

Lion Air, the main airline company that flies people between Jaffna and Colombo was also partially closed said sources.

They, however, could not confirm whether the LTTE had instructed this company also to close down. But a senior government official in Jaffna said that neither airline has given any notice of discontinuing their flights today. They were not aware of the LTTE note to Monara.

The Monara (Peacock in Sinhala) is a private firm that broke the monopoly on flying civilians between Jaffna and Colombo which the Lion Air enjoyed since 1996.

The company began operations early this year. The main access to the northern Jaffna peninsula is by air.

The Liberation Tigers have resisted a massive operation by the Sri Lankan security forces for more than fifteen months to open the strategic highway that links the north with the rest of the island. The sea route to Jaffna is also under severe pressure as a consequence of fierce attacks by them on Naval convoys.

The two private airlines which operate under a contract with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) hence remain the main mode of supply and transport to the Jaffna peninsula.

The Liberation Tigers have, however, charged that the two airlines are frequently pressed into military service by the MoD. Both airlines fly Antonov Russian military transport aircraft under the MoD contract.


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