IAF chopper flies PM into Colombo

August 1st, 2008 - 6:50 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

Colombo, Aug 1 (IANS) Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Friday flew into the Sri Lankan capital from the country’s international airport outside Colombo in an Mi-17 Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopter. Scores of Indian security personnel who had flown in here days earlier formed the first layer of security as the special Indian flight carrying the prime minister landed around noon at the Katunayake international airport.

After a red carpet welcome, Manmohan Singh - the first Congress prime minister from India to visit Sri Lanka in two decades - boarded one of three IAF Mi-17 helicopters and took off for the Sri Lankan Army ground in the heart of Colombo.

From there he was driven to the nearby Taj Samudra Hotel, where the prime minister is staying.

At the Katunayake airport, there were several officers from the IAF overseeing the transfer of the prime minister to the helicopter. The helicopter ride became essential both to save time - the airport is about 40 km away from Colombo — and due to fears of terror attacks by the Tamil Tigers.

A Sri Lankan source said that the Indian Navy had anchored two ships off Colombo and that IAF personnel were operating the India-supplied Indira radars to keep track of any roving Tamil Tiger aircraft.

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