The Terror Journal

A Journal on Terrorism and Genocide

LTTE planes raid Colombo

LTTEThe surprise attack late on Friday by two small Tiger air craft set off hails of anti-aircraft fire across Colombo. One slammed into the main government tax office in central Colombo, killing at least two people and wounding 53, the military said.

The other plane was shot down and crashed in a marsh outside the international airport — site of the Tiger air wing’s first strike in 2007. State TV showed triumphant soldiers around the bullet-riddled fuselage of the small plane and its dead pilot.

The attack was the latest proof of the Tigers’ ability to strike far from the war zone, where troops have rapidly encircled them in just 87 sq km (34 sq miles) of jungle and are within reach of ending a separatist war that began in 1983.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in a news release said the raid targeted Sri Lanka’s air force headquarters in Colombo and airbase at the international airport, pro-rebel web site http://www.TamilNet.com reported.

TamilNet said the mission was flown by “Black Air Tigers,” or suicide pilots, and said they had carried out successful air raids. The military said each plane was carrying more than 200 kg (441 lb) of C-4 explosives.

Both planes came close to their targets. The tax office is near air force headquarters, and the crash site of the other was near the boundary of the airbase.

TamilNet showed the men it said were the pilots smiling, with Tiger leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran standing in the middle with his arms around them. The web site said the picture was taken before the mission, but did not give a specific time.

Friday’s raid also showed that Sri Lanka’s military could down planes from a ramshackle air squadron that had flown nine previous sorties since debuting in 2007.

Though the air force said it had downed one plane in September, the wreckage was never recovered. The military’s seeming inability to stop the small planes was a source of longstanding embarrassment and frustration.

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The LTTE is on the verge of defeat with more than 50,000 soldiers surrounding them in the northern war zone, and where the military said heavy fighting was ongoing.

Col. R. Hariharan, who was head of intelligence for India’s 1987-1990 peacekeeping mission in Sri Lanka, said the raids proved the LTTE had not lost its nerve for a fight.

“And that means the unwelcome baptism of fire of civilians trapped in the war zone is likely to continue. This is grim news for everyone,” Hariharan wrote on Saturday in a report for the South Asia Analysis Group think-tank.

Tens of thousands of civilians are trapped in the war zone, many of them forcibly kept there by the LTTE and others fearing heavy fighting, according to people who have escaped.

“Yesterday we recovered 10 LTTE bodies in Puthukudyiruppu,” military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said, referring to last town the rebels hold. “There were heavy confrontations.”

Although most of LTTE’s territory has been taken by the rapid military advance in the last year, troops have found seven airstrips but no planes. But the planes are small enough to take off from a dirt road.

The fleet of propeller-driven planes is believed to be the only combat air wing operated by an insurgent group or any group on U.S. and E.U. terrorism lists, on which the LTTE appears.

Sri Lanka’s military has said the Tigers are flying three single-engine Zlin-143 light aircraft, believed smuggled onto the island in pieces and reassembled.

It is just one of many warfare innovations the Tigers demonstrated in a conflict that has killed 70,000 people and is Asia’s longest-running. The Tigers invented the suicide jacket – a bomb-laden vest — and used it in hundreds of bombings.

Source: Reuters

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