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DateLine Monday, 23 February 2009

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Act of desperation

*LTTE on its last legs

*Forces' preparedness paid off

Defence spokesman, Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, reffering to the LTTE's failed suicide air attack last Friday, said that the Tigers' releasing their most precious military asset in a final suicide stunt to propagate death and destruction indicate that they are in their last legs.

"Any terrorist organization would not use their most priced military asset on a destructive mission until the very end," the Minister said. Claiming that the LTTE's elementary air wing had been eliminated by shooting down both planes which staged the air raid on Friday night, the Minister said that the desperate attempt was a clear indication of the present

8.30 pm - First reports of a Tiger aircraft on air emerges, through ground troops at Puthukudirippu.
8.35pm - Troops in areas of Olumadu and Mannar report of two suspicious aircraft.
8.40pm - First radar pickup of the two aircraft by Air Force radar in Vavuniya
8.50pm - F-7 Interceptor jets of the Air Force, air borne from Katunayake
9.00pm - Radars in Palavi locate the two aircraft heading south
9.15pm - The two aircraft located in the Meerigama area.
9.30pm - The two crafts flies past Katunayake, by passing the general area of Katunayake airport and Air Force base.
9.47pm - Enters Colombo air space
9.51 pm - One aircraft which is crippled due to anti- aircraft fire, collides with the Inland Revenue building in Fort, and the other flees back towards Katunayake area.
9.55pm - The remaining Czech built zling- 143 aircraft enters Katunayake air space.
9.59 pm - Air Force gunners bring down the Tiger aircraft, which is packed with over 210 kgs of C- 4 high explosives, in a marshy land, near the Air Force base in Katunayake.

Tiger mentality and military capability.The Minister said that according to information, the Tigers had possessed only three such aircraft, and one of them had been brought down by an Air Force interceptor jet near the dense jungles in Vavuniya area on an earlier occasion.

Although the wreckage was not found as the area was not cleared at that time, the pilot of the interceptor aircraft had confirmed the hit, he added.

However in the event of LTTE possessing any more aircraft, the Air Force with the support of other military arms were fully capable of meeting the threat effectively, as displayed on Friday night, Air Force spokesman Wing Commander Janaka Nanayakkara said.

Minister Rambukwella also claimed that by destroying LTTE's air capability, Sri Lanka had been able to eliminate a regional threat.

The LTTE was believed to be the only terrorist organisation in the world which possessed air capability and was considered as a threat to neighboring countries as well, the Minister added.

Meanwhile, giving an account of the measures taken to counter the LTTE air attack, Wing Commander Nanayakkara said that as soon as they heard the news of two aircraft heading towards Colombo, contingency maneuvers, fortifying all vulnerable locations had taken place, with specially trained gunners taking on positions awaiting the sight of the enemy aircraft. He said after encountering heavy fire the two crafts had fled, losing sight of the initially designated targets, which could have been key locations within the city.

"Well coordinated communication, early detection and the preparedness of the Forces paid off," he said.

He said that the aircraft which was brought down at Katunayake had carried over 210 Kgs of C-4 high explosives with one barrel containing 50 kgs and 10 other boxes packed with 16 kgs each..

The pilot had received serious injuries to his right hand due to firing by Air Force gunners which had rendered him incapable of detonating the trigger, preventing a massive explosion, Nanayakkara added. However if the craft had reached the Air Force compound the destruction might have been quite significant, he added.

The second aircraft had struck the Inland Revenue building after being crippled due to anti- aircraft fire. Three people were killed and 54 were injured in the incident.

Meanwhile, Military Spokesman, Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said the remaining LTTE held territory had been now cornered to mere 73 sq km land patch in the Mullaitivu district. ************----------

The flight path of the two explosive packed LTTE aircraft, which engaged in a failed suicide attempt, targeting key military locations within Colombo city, on Friday night.

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