Sri Lankan helicopter hit by suspected rebel fire in country’s east

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The helicopter was one of the two that escorted a third helicopter that was carrying President Mahinda Rajapaksa helicopter earlier in the day during an official visit to the area.

The helicopter was struck in Ampara district, 360 kilometres east of the capital, on Tuesday afternoon as it was heading to a nearby airbase for refueling after the president arrived at his destination safely.

Air force spokesman Janaka Nanayakkara confirmed that the helicopter had been hit by surface-based fire, but did not say whether rebels were responsible.

Rajapaksa was at a ceremony to open a bridge built with US government assistance in Arugambay when the helicopter was hit. He flew flew back to Colombo later in the day.

The Sri Lankan government has declared that the eastern province has been recaptured from the rebels, but journalists in the area say that small groups of rebels still operate in the area.

The military is currently carrying out operations in the northern province to clear rebel held areas.


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