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 Post subject: LTTE Black Tiger attack on Vavuniya Air Force Base
 Post Posted: Thu Sep 18, 2008 9:57 am 
LTTE Black Tiger attack on Vavuniya Air Force Base
Special Forces minimise damage
Tiger plane shot down, 11 Black tigers killed

Vavuniya has been the gateway to the Wanni where until recently vast stretches of land were dominated by the LTTE. It was around 3 a.m. on Tuesday, 9 September 2008, when the Security Forces Headquarters in Wanni was alerted with a gun battle. First, a group of black tigers infiltrated the area near the Air Force radar unit to spark off a ground battle. Then artillery and mortar shells began to rain. Thereafter, two LTTE aircraft appeared over the skies to drop bombs. vibrations caused by the bombardment shook the doors and windows of many homes in this key town.

@ Agencies/SLM/LL
Sunday, 14 September 2008


Vavuniya town, which had been in peaceful slumber, was suddenly jolted awake by a barrage of gunfire around 2.50 in the morning on September 9, 2008. The gunfire came from the direction of the Wanni Security Forces Headquarters and the Air force base. As time went by, the sound of loud explosions also shook the town. The military complex comprises the Army Security Force Headquarters Wanni [SFHQ- (W)], Air Force Base Vavuniya and a Police Base.

It was around 3 a.m. when the Security Forces Headquarters in Wanni was alerted with an unexpected gunfire and fall of artillery rounds onto the the military and Police complex. The sudden artillery rounds that fell into the SFHQ area put the entire military complex on alert.

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Rounds of artillery continued to fall on to the SFHQ whilst the instructions were issued to those inside the military complex to move into bunkers as it was under artillery fire.

Amidst the artillery rounds falling into various places in and out of the military complex one soldier manning a sentry point covering the Army camp area where the Special Forces have their battalion headquarters, observed an unusual movement ahead of his sentry point.

Since it was very unusual for any soldier to scrawl on the ground when a military complex is under artillery fire, he fired at what he observed without having a second thought. He was right in his guess. The return fire came in his direction and the entire camp was alerted that it was not only under artillery fire but the camp was also facing infiltration from the ground.

By this time two Black Tiger cadres had moved close to the road that separates the SLAF base and the Special Forces Brigade Headquarters within the Wanni Security Forces Headquarters and the Special Forces troops detected a few more Tiger cadres trying to infiltrate into the camp area.

It was similar to the attack on the SLAF base in Anuradhapura in which Black Tiger cadres infiltrated the Air Base while two of their light aircraft dropped some bombs into the Air Base. But this time they had chosen the wrong place to enter the military complex. The Black Tiger cadres had tried to move towards the SLAF base through the Special Forces Brigade inside the SFHQ.

The firing came from all directions towards the Tiger infiltrators. The LTTE fire power was heavier as they had come for a do or die mission. They had no hope of returning. But the determination of the troops was also high and they fearlessly faced the Black Tiger cadres amidst rains of artillery rounds falling into the camp site.

The mission of the Tiger cadres was obvious. They were trying to reach towards the SLAF base and the control tower of the radars located inside the SLAF base.

The eastern boundary of the Wanni Security Forces Headquarters in Vavuniya ends in dense jungle close to a few Tamil villages. The Black Tiger suicide cadres had gained entry to the Wanni Security Forces Headquarters by cutting through the barbed wire fence at the end of this boundary.

The Black Tiger cadres used satellite phones and GPS technology to pin-point their artillery attacks on the base. Police later learnt that a tiger atop a tree gave directions to their artillery gunners to fine tune their targets in the area.

The artillery detecting radars in Weli Oya had detected two 130 mm artillery guns being fired from Puliyankulam side. The LTTE started raining 130mm artillery shells onto the Vauniya Airbase, the Wanni Security Forces Headquarters, and the Police Superintendent’s Office Complex. These artillery guns had been moved to the uncleared area in Puliyankulam east, the previous night. These guns had been used earlier from the general area of Pooneryn to periodically direct artillery fire at the Security Forces Headquarters in Jaffna.

It was not easy for The Special to identify Tigers clearly as they were wearing uniforms which were similar to that of the army. While the artillery attack was taking place, the Tiger suicide team started moving towards their target. Three female cadres blasted themselves using the 'suicide kits' they wore. Another committed suicide by biting a cyanide capsule. Others edged forward to fire their assault rifles and Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) at the Indra II radar installed in the Vavuniya Air Force Base.

The Air Force area that was under attack lay near the Army's 211 Brigade. Also located in the same vicinity are the second and third battalions of the Special Forces.

As the Special Forces personnel engaged the Black Tiger unit, the multi barrel rocket launcher and artillery guns situated at the Wanni Security Forces Headquarters started firing at the LTTE artillery gun positions.

About 40 minutes into the battle, the Indra II radar system in Vavuniya had detected an enemy aircraft becoming airborne from an uncleared area. The officers at the radar station, after positively identifying it as an LTTE light aircraft immediately notified the Air force headquarters and the Operations Room at Katunayaka.

By this time, the Black Tiger team had also started directing their attack at the Indian radar centre located inside the Vavuniya Air Force Base.
Besides those who committed suicide, SF troops shot dead within a short time the majority of the 14 Tigers who had infiltrated and planned to wreak further havoc.

It was at 3.28 a.m. as the Wanni SFHQ was under artillery fire and under ground infiltration, the radars at the Vavuniya Air Base detected one Tiger aircraft heading towards Vavuniya.

The SLAF activated the air defence system as the LTTE light aircraft were heading towards Vavuniya. All guns including T-56s were directed towards the roaring sound of the aircraft. They also directed flash lights into the air.

The entire sky over Wanni SFHQ resembled a sea of fire. Amidst heavy firing one aircraft reached the southern outer perimeter of the military complex and dropped two crude bombs into the camp area. One fell close to the Special Forces Commander, Brigadier Nirmal Dharamaratne’s chalet but he was on leave. But the bomb remained unexploded.

The other aircraft had turned back due to heavy resistance from the Security Forces from all directions. By this time two Chinese built F-7 BS interceptors were airborne from Katunayake - just eight minutes after the radars detected the two aircraft heading towards Vavuniya.

Though there were heavy weapons, ammunition dumps, and other targets located inside the Wanni Joint Operations Headquarters, the LTTE team was focused on attacking the radar system.

As the gunfire got heavier, and as artillery shells started to fall on the air base, officers manning the radar station inside the base noticed a second light aircraft becoming airborne around 3.35 am. This was revealed by Squadron Leader Sanjaya Adikari, who was at the Operations Room in Katunayaka at the time of the attack, and who is also a pilot himself, when he attended a press conference held on the same day in Colombo.

This time, the LTTE aircraft had become airborne from the direction of Iranamadu and Pudukuduirippu. Two Tiger airstrips are known to be located in these areas. As the aircraft flew down from Mullaithivu, air force officers quickly realised that they were flying towards the radar station in Vavuniya.

The LTTE aircraft dropped four bombs on the Security Forces Headquarters in Vavuniya and the air force base. According to Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara, only one of these bombs had exploded. He told the media that the other three bombs had failed to explode. Nevertheless, the LTTE aircraft were compelled to drop their bombs off target as a result of the anti-aircraft fire, and fly towards the Wanni. The Zlin Z-143 light aircraft of the LTTE again flew towards the Iranamadu and Pudukuduirippu areas.

Three F-7 aircraft of the air force had become airborne from the Katunayaka Air Force Base. The air force says that they were able to corner one of the LTTE light aircraft in the skies over as their aircraft were superior in speed to those of the tigers. One Tiger aircraft had landed at the Iranamadu airstrip, while the other had attempted to land at the Pudukuduirippu airstrip. Air force spokesman, said that the pilot of an F-7 aircraft was able to attack this aircraft as it attempted to land.

Pilot and Squadron Leader Sanjaya Adikari stated at a news conference in Colombo that the Tiger aircraft was shot down by an air-to-air missile fired from the F-7 at a location to the south of Mullaithivu town. However, he did not say whether it was he who had piloted the air force jet.
Squadron Leader Sanjaya Adikari stated that the LTTE aircraft had been shot down at around 3.55 am. However, the tamilnet website stated that both Tiger aircraft had safely returned to the Wanni.

The lack of photographic and video evidence on the shooting down of the aircraft has raised questions. But the pilot of the F-7 aircraft had communicated with senior air force officers that after the Tiger aircraft had been identified as the enemy aircraft, he had released the missile, and that the Tiger aircraft had exploded and had disappeared from the radar screen.

Even though air force operations in the air had finished, the battle on the ground between the Black Tigers and the army had lasted close to three hours till around 5.40 am.

According to the army, the LTTE had fired around 75 artillery rounds at the army and air force bases. Over 50 of these rounds had fallen inside the base. The rest had fallen on a few nearby villages.

Tamilnet quoted the LTTE as saying that they had fired 120 artillery rounds at the base. Tamilnet also states that a tiger leader going by the name of Lt.Col. ‘Kittu’ had led the artillery attack.

The army reports that their multi-barrel and artillery attacks had destroyed one of the LTTE’s artillery guns which had fired on the base. Army sources say that this was confirmed through radio interceptions.

Even though 11 LTTE cadres who had participated in the attack had been killed, the LTTE continued to direct artillery fire at the Vavuniya airbase and Security Forces Headquarters.

According to reports from the army, 12 soldiers, 2 policemen and a civilian had been killed in the fighting, and 28 others had been wounded.
Two Indian air force officers who were serving in the Vavuniya radar station had been wounded in the attack. These two officers were immediately transported by air to Colombo and admitted to a leading private hospital. Soldiers and policemen who were wounded in the fighting were admitted to the Anuradhapura Hospital. One police officer later succumbed to injuries.

Roofs of buildings near the Air Force installations were badly damaged. The roof of the main armoury of the division was badly damaged but a concrete slab below had protected the weaponry from being destroyed. Six vehicles including a bowser, truck, van and a tractor were damaged.

According to some reports, the attack caused considerable damage to the Vavuniya radar station. Sources said that some equipment had been moved from the Katunayaka radar station to Vavuniya as a temporary measure in order to continue with surveillence.

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As the sun began to rise, army and police teams conducted special search operations around Vavuniya. Soldiers were able to identify a house in a village called “Samanlankulam”, where the black tiger team had been staying. They had been disguised as civilians, and had been operating from that house for two days before the attack. The Black Tiger team had been cooking their meals and had been staying at this house for two days, after forcibly evicting the residents of the house.

The bodies of 11 Tiger cadres, including five females, were found within the military complex. The majority of LTTE were found killed in direct hits taken by the army elites. Among those killed there were 2 self-styled "Lieutenant Colonels", 2 "Majors" and 7 "Captains", as later claimed by the LTTE. The army has recovered an assortment of military hardware from the dead Tiger cadres. These include specialised weapons, GPS equipment, Maps, and satellite phones. Preliminary investigations by the Police have revealed that 14 tigers entered the military complex and three later got away.

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The Tamilnet website released a photograph of the ten cadres posing with their leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran before they died during the attack. The picture has been doctored to show only ten. Initial reports to the media by Army officials said bodies of ten Tigers, including five females, were found within the military complex. As this news spread worldwide, the LTTE repeated the same figure in a news release. Their idea was to hide the exact number of cadres who were assigned to carry out the attack. Later on Tuesday, one more dead body was found within the military complex.

If not for the efforts of the Special Forces personnel at the Wanni Security Forces Headquarters, there could have been far more deaths and damages in this attack.


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