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 Post subject: Troops capture last LTTE airstrip, Tiger chief's bunker
 Post Posted: Tue Feb 03, 2009 5:46 pm 
Troops capture last LTTE airstrip, Tiger chief's bunker

@ Indian Express, India / Agencies
Tuesday February 3, 2009

Colombo: In a further blow to the air attack capability of the Tamil Tigers, Sri Lankan troops on Tuesday captured the seventh and last jungle airstrip used by the rebel outfit to launch strikes across the island but are still to trace any of the LTTE planes.

The 50-metre wide and two-km long runway, along with a hangar for light aircraft, were seized by advancing security forces in Puthukudirippu in Mullaitivu, officials said.

During the course of the heavy fighting over the last few weeks which witnessed the cornered rebels steadily losing territory, Government troops seized six runways used by the air wing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

However, they are yet to come across any of the Czech-made Zlin-143 single-engine planes believed to be used by the LTTE, prompting the authorities to order a strict vigil to prevent any air raid by the rebels on the country's independence day tomorrow.

The Tigers are believed to have four or five Czech-built light planes, smuggled onto the island in pieces and re-assembled. Defence experts do not rule out the possibility of Tigers dismantling the planes and whisking them away. Some of the officials also believe that the LTTE is capable of using highways for take-off of their planes.

The LTTE “air force” came into prominence when it struck on the Sri Lankan military air base inside Colombo's international airport in March, 2007. The last air attack by LTTE took place in November last year when an LTTE mini-aircraft dropped two low-intensity bombs at a power station in Colombo. This was preceded by an attack by an LTTE aircraft on an army camp in Mannar in October.

On Tuesday 58 Division troops captured an elaborate underground bunker complex believed to have been the home of the leader of the Tamil Tigers. The captured two-storey-deep bunker had sound-proof electricity generators, air conditioning and medical supplies and was hidden in a coconut grove in Mullaittivu district, the defence ministry said. It described the site as the "main LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) hideout" and "a major residential site" of rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. Pictures released by the defence ministry purported to show that Prabhakaran had left behind a stuffed Tiger, a paintball gun and a bottle of cognac. At least 20 guerrillas were killed trying to defend the facility and another 12 rebels died in other clashes on Monday, the ministry said.

The military also captured a Torture Chamber and open prisons operated by the LTTE spreading over five acres of land in the West of Visvamadu in the Mullaitivu district.

The largest ever arms, ammunition and equipment recovery made in a day on the Vanni front over the weekend included US built guns capable of firing chemicals, thermo-baric weapons and nine mortar launchers of different calibre. Army headquarters yesterday said that US-made A-5 paintball guns recovered by the 58 Division over the weekend from an LTTE base in the Vishvamadu area would have been smuggled in several years ago. A senior army spokesperson said that the nine guns widely used for hunting and riot-controlling purposes were powered by CO 2, compressed air and nitrogen with their gas cylinder fitted separately to trigger fifteen balls (made of rubber or plastic) per second. "They are effective only as long as the cylinder holds gas. In the US, a gun of this type costs about 200 US$. Misuse of this weapon could cause serious injuries or even death, the official said. Army headquarters said that the 11 SLLI (Sri Lanka Light Infantry) and 6GW (Gemunu Watch) had captured the arms after heavy confrontations south of Piramanthalkulam and east of Puliyampokkanal in the Vishvamadu area Saturday morning.

The army Task Force I and II conducting operations in the Udayarakattukulam and Udayarakattu areas recovered a foreign made communication tower about 200 feet in height. Along with the transmission tower, the army had recovered One multi purpose machine gun, twelve T-56 assault rifles, thirty rounds of ammunition, four hand grenades, one lorry, 143 three anti personnel mines, two radio communication sets, several barrels containing kerosene, one 12.7 anti-aircraft gun barrel, one light machine gun, five RPG rounds and five bodies of LTTE cadres.

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