Security forces nail LTTE’s rudimentary ‘air wing’: Sri Lanka

February 21st, 2009 - 11:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Feb 21 (IANS) Claiming that Tamil Tiger chief Velupillai Prabhakaran’s plans to “showcase a stunt out of his sleeves Friday night in the Colombo skies” had ended in total failure, Sri Lanka said Saturday it had “nailed the LTTE’s elementary air wing” by shooting down both the planes that had staged Friday night’s daring air raid.
The Defence Ministry said the two LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) improvised Czech-built Zlin-143 aircraft “were brought down within an hour from its initial detection at Puthukkudiyiruppu around 8.40 p.m (Friday), due to rapid and precision anti-aircraft gunfire”.

“The LTTE chief’s, strategic calculations have gone haywire with LTTE finally losing its stunt craft during a failed seventh mission into the heart of Colombo. Sri Lankan security forces have made it clear - ‘no escape this time’, a very prominent feature in the present military surge,” it said.

Giving an account of the measures taken to counter the LTTE air attack, the defence ministry said the Colombo city was plunged into darkness in anticipation of an aerial threat, “as security forces made contingency maneuvers fortifying all vulnerable locations, with specially trained gunners taking on positions awaiting the sight of enemy aircraft”.

“The two LTTE craft were making a desperate flee, losing sight of the initially designated targets in total disarray under the flurry of anti-air attacks. Well coordinated communication, early detection and the preparedness of the forces paid off,” it said.

“The security forces have put in the last nails on the LTTE’s rudimentary air capability as the Mullaitivu battles enter its final phase during the next few days. LTTE terrorists are now in all dire straits and this loss underscores the inevitable overall,” the ministry said.

Pointing out that the advancing ground troops have cornered the rebels into a mere 87 sq km land patch in the north-eastern Mullaitivu district, it said that the rebel chief’s “waning of fortunes continue as the end game for him and his outlaws has neared after three decades”.

Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa speaking to local media immediately after the destruction of the LTTE aircraft has said: “We knew the LTTE was planning an attack, the moment the aircraft were airborne as troops in the area informed us of the air movement even before the radars had picked them up.”

Claiming that the LTTE may have used a straight road in their last stronghold for taking off the aircraft, having lost all the airstrips to the troops during the past few months, he has said the rebel aircraft had “flew over Mannar, Wilpattu and came to Colombo”. He added it was their normal route.

“The troops would have captured the LTTE planes within days and the LTTE had acted before they lost the craft on the ground. They would have lost the planes anyway,” the defence ministry report has quoted Rajapaksa as telling the media.

Rajapaksa, the younger brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, is virtually running the ongoing fierce onslaught against the LTTE over the past two years.

Although the pro-LTTE said the rebel planes were on a suicide mission and the attacks were “successful”, the defence authorities here said the guerrillas had clearly missed the intended targets and their mission was thwarted due to “swift action of the Air Force and intense anti-aircraft fire from the troops on the ground”.

One of the Tiger aircraft was shot down near the Katunayake air force base while the other crashed into the multi-storeyed Inland Revenue building in the heart of Colombo reportedly after receiving anti-aircraft gun hit.

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