Login    Forum    Search    FAQ

Board index » General Topics » Sri Lanka Latest News

Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 1 post ] 
Author Message
 Post subject: Tigers bomb Air Force’s main base at Katunayake
 Post Posted: Tue Mar 27, 2007 6:59 pm 
Tigers bomb Air Force’s main base at Katunayake

Two propeller driven light aircraft had dropped three bombs on an engineering facility within the airbase at 12.45 am, causing some damage. Two of the three bombs had exploded. The LTTE is the second militant or terror group to launch an air attack. The Al Qaida did it for the first time on 9/11/2001.

Colombo, March 26, 2007
Source: HT/Agencies

For the first time in the history of the Sri Lankan war, the LTTE carried out an aerial attack on the Air Force’s main base at Katunayake, north of Colombo, on Monday, killing three airmen and injuring 17, four of them critically.

Two propeller driven light aircraft had dropped three bombs on an engineering facility within the airbase at 12.45 am, causing some damage. Two of the three bombs had exploded.

Air Force spokesman, Gr Captain Jayantha Silva, told Hindustan Times that no aircraft on the ground was hit.

The civil international airport, which is adjacent to the base, was unaffected. But it was closed immediately. It was re-opened at 3.45 am.

The aircraft (presumably of Czech make and assembled in the LTTE’s technical facility in the Wanni), returned to base somewhere near Kilinochchi after successfully completing their mission, the LTTE announced.

The flights were seen off by the LTTE’s Supremo, Velupillai Prabhakaran.

Reliable sources said when the radar picked up the aircraft, anti-aircraft guns were fired, but in vain.

Military experts said that it was strange that the slow moving intruders, with a maximum speed of 100 or 120 knots, got away, even though they were flying over government-held territory over hundreds of kilometres up and down.

Investigating team formed

The government spokesman, Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, told the media that a five-man investigating commission headed by the Chief of Staff of the Air Force (the second in command) had been appointed and that nothing could be said till this commission had given its report.

However, Fernandopulle said that the government suspected that there was a larger conspiracy behind the attack, in the light of the charges recently made by two sacked ministers regarding the purchase of MIG-27 ground attack aircraft. They had alleged a SLRs. 600 million fraud.

The attack came as a surprise and shock to Sri Lankans because the government’s spokesman had been claiming repeatedly, that the Air Force had decimated the LTTE’s air assets in the Wanni and that the Iranamadu airfield had been rendered non-operational.

The government had claimed that the LTTE had two small aircraft but nobody had seen them. Nor was there any report of training in flying.

It is probable that the lack of a challenge in the air to the Sri Lankan Air Force, which had been bombing LTTE-held areas incessantly since April 25,2006, had made the men complacent, some experts said.

Detection and interception were roles which the Air Force was still to learn by doing, they added.

The LTTE is the second militant or terror group to launch an air attack. The Al Qaida did it for the first time on 9/11/2001.

However, the LTTE is the first militant group to launch an air strike on a military target and also to get away with it. This is the second LTTE attack on the Katunayake airbase and airport.

The earlier one was on July 24, 2001, when a suicide squad sneaked into the airport in the wee hours and blasted 13 military and civil aircraft. The attack led to a 300% freight insurance hike, which ruined the economy and led to a change of government at the end of the year.

Midnight thunderball: Government seeks unity
SLMM refused access to site

By Sunil Jayasiri and Easwaran Rutnam
@ DM

A top level inquiry had been launched into the pre-dawn LTTE ‘Air Tiger’ attack on the Katunayaka air force base even as the LTTE warned of similar operations in the future.

The Katunayake attack which stunned the country was the first instance where the rebels, demonstrated their air capabilities in the conflict, although they were known to possess light air craft and an air strips in Kilinochchi.

Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission officials who attempted to visit the Air Force base yesterday to initiate inquiries into the attack were refused access to the site by top air force officials, an SLMM spokesman told the Daily Mirror.

SLMM spokesman Thorfinur Omarsson said the monitors however managed to visit the injured at the Negombo hospital and would make another attempt to visit the air base today stressing it was important that access is granted for the monitors to rule on the incident.

Amidst speculation that two suspicious aircraft were detected by the STF off Anuradhapura minutes before the attack there were also reports that the radar system failed to detect the planes. Questions were also raised as to how the rebel aircraft managed to get away after the attack without being intercepted.

However addressing the media yesterday Air force spokesman Ajantha Silva said he could not comment on speculative reports as a probe was underway.

Group Captain Silva said Air Force Commander Roshan Goonetilake had appointed a five-member board led by Air vice Marshal P. B. Premachandra to hold an inquiry while the CID was also carrying out its own investigation.

According to the air force spokesman the rebel aircraft targeted the fighter jets parked at the base but missed the target slightly damaging only a few adjoining buildings. Three bombs were dropped on the site but only two exploded, he said. However three airmen were killed in the attack while 16 were injured.

Captain Silva also dismissed reports that there were sightings of rebel airmen in parachutes in the vicinity of the air base. The adjoining Katunayake International airport was temporarily closed as a result of the attack and international flights bound for Colombo were redirected. A passenger at the airport told the Daily Mirror there was panic in the terminal as many feared a repeat of the 2001 LTTE attack on the airport and air force base in which airlines and fighter aircraft were damaged.

However as the situation returned to normalcy President Mahinda Rajapaksa informed the authorities to resume normal operations at the airport and reopen the Colombo- Katunayake road which was closed at Seeduwa for civilian traffic.

Late last evening President Rajapaksa also briefed leaders of the parties in the ruling coalition, on the current situation following the attack on the air force base.

LTTE military wing spokesman Rasiah Illentheriyan told the Daily Mirror by email the purpose of the Air Tiger attack, which he said was by the Tamileelam Air Force (TAF), was to reduce the air borne capability of Sri Lanka Air Force.

“The target was a Sri Lanka Air Force hangar at the Katunayake air field. Two aircraft of TAF with air to surface capability participated in the sortie. TAF officials at the control station announced the successful accomplishment of the mission and the safe return of the airmen and craft. They did not rule out future missions of similar nature,” Mr. Illentheriyan said.

Hours after the attack pro LTTE websites posted pictures of the rebel leader Vellupillai Pirabakaran posing with TAF officials as well as a light aircraft fitted with mortars with rebel cadres on board showing the victory sign.

Meanwhile our Negombo correspondent W. Hubert Fernando quoted residents around the Katunayake air port as saying they heard the sound of a mystery plane flying over the air force camp and minutes later heard massive explosions.

Air Force Sergeant R.W. Rajapakse who is warded at the Negombo hospital said he was sleeping in the barracks when the explosions occurred. “The ceiling of the barrack came down. I put on my uniform and came out and was later brought to the Negombo hospital by an ambulance.”

The government condemned the LTTE attempt on the Katunayaka Air Force Base and appealed for unity to fight the menace of terrorism. A government information department statement said the attempt was in the aftermath of major defeats suffered by the rebels in the east.

“It is time to rise above narrow political differences and to refrain from unduly discrediting the security forces as such campaigns could result in strengthening the LTTE terrorists and demoralizing the security forces. The government wishes to emphasise that the nation is supreme and no political ambitions should supersede the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka,” it said.

Media Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa told the media yesterday the LTTE was able to build an airstrip in Kilinochchi as a result of the signing of the CFA and reports later surfaced that the rebels had also acquired light aircraft.

The Minister charged that some politicians and others with vested interests were attempting to give legitimacy to the cause of the LTTE by raising false claims over the purchase of some MIG aircrafts, the very aircraft which the rebels yesterday targeted but failed to destroy.

LTTE Air Wing nine years old: Former RAW chief


India’s former Research and Analyst Wing (RAW) Head B. Raman yesterday said the LTTE Air Wing had been in existence for nine years “without the Sri Lankan intelligence having the least idea about its location and capability”.

Mr. Raman, who was also a former Additional Secretary of the Cabinet Secretariat of India, made this comment in an article posted on the South Asia Analysis group website yesterday, hours after the LTTE air attack on the Katunayake air base..

Mr. Raman said the LTTE had also stepped up its arms procurement efforts and managed to replenish its stocks of explosives.

Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 1 post ] 

Board index » General Topics » Sri Lanka Latest News

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum

Search for:
Jump to: