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Air attack shows LTTE not finished yet
B Raman
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February 21, 2009

According to pro-LTTE websites, two so-called Black Air Tigers of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam carried out kamikazee style suicide 'dives" into the Sri Lanka [Images] Air Force headquarters on Slave Island in Colombo and at a SLAF base at Katunayaka between  2120-2145 hrs on Friday killing two persons and injuring 54 others.

The pro-LTTE web site Tamilnet has released a photograph of the two so-called kamikazee pilots -- Colonel Roopan and Lieutenant Colonel Siriththiran -- with LTTE [Images] chief Velupillai Prabakaran before they embarked on their mission. According to the LTTE version, the maximum number of casualties were on Slave Island -- two killed and 45 injured. Only six were injured in the attack on the SLAF establishment at Katunayake.

There are no reports of either of the aircraft involved in the mission having carried explosives in order to add to the destruction effect. Whatever damage was caused was by the remaining fuel in the aircraft, which could not have been much and the resulting fire. The aircraft, which had been tasked to crash into the SLAF headquarters, actually crashed into one of the top floors of a building located in front of the SLAF headquarters building in which the offices of the Inland Revenue Department of the Lankan government are located.

It is evident from available details that heavy anti-airaft fire from the SLAF building made it difficult for the pilot to crash into the building. He, therefore, crashed his plane into the building of the Inland Revenue Department.

While pro-LTTE web sites have projected the crashing of a second aircraft into the SLAF base in Katunayake also as a kamikazee style attack, the  Sri Lankan government claim, that the plane was actually shot down by anti-aircraft fire before it could reach its intended target, carries greater credibility.

During the current offensive in the north, the advancing Sri Lankan armed forces could not lay hand on the remaining LTTE arsenal at Kilinochchi. The LTTE's withdrawal from Kilinochchi was pre-planned and orderly. Before the Sri Lankan army captured it, the LTTE managed to remove from Kilinochchi everything that it had accumulated there, including its arsenal.

The LTTE's subsequent withdrawal from Mullaithivu was less orderly. It did not have the time to remove the fittings. While it managed to shift most of its arsenal, it could not move some heavy items such as artillery pieces and boats under construction, which eventually fell into the hands of the army.

It managed to move well in time its aircraft holdings and its reserve of aviation fuel. Though the army claimed to have captured from the withdrawing LTTE all but one of the air strips, which it was suspected to be using, it could not lay its hands on the aircraft and the fuel reserve. The assumption was that the area under the effective control of the LTTE  having been reduced to less than 100 square kms, it would no longer be able to assemble the aircraft and send them on an offensive mission without its preparations being detected by the Lankan army.

The Armed Forces must now be having their electronic intelligence (ELINT) collecting stations at Kilinochchi and Mullaithivu. If they were functioning satisfactorily, the LTTE pilots should not have been able to assemble their planes, take off and reach Colombo.

The fact that they were able to do so would indicate that the ELINT capability of the SLAF is poor or that the Black Air Tigers had taken off from a place not within the ELINT range of the SLAF stations. Such a place could be in one of the uninhabited islands in the seas between Sri Lanka and the Maldives [Images].

Much of the analyses on the options available to the LTTE, if and when the army ejects it from the shrinking territory under its control have been focussing on the possibility of Prabakaran and his officers shifting to some place in South East Asia or in South Africa [Images]. Even if individual leaders and officers manage to sneak in there, they would not be able to shift their remaining arms and ammunition, planes, artillery pieces and other equipment to these locations.

For the LTTE to be able to stage a come-back one, it needs a beach-head out of the reach of the Sri Lankan armed forces where it can re-group, re-train and re-plan and wait for an opportunity to strike back from the beach-head. The jungles in the Wanni area could provide such a beach-head for a small number of men with light arms and ammunition. it cannot provide a reserve for planes and artillery units. Only an uninhabited island out of the reach of the SLAF can fulfill this need.

If one presumes for analysis sake that the LTTE planes that attacked the SLAF set-ups in Colombo must have come from an uninhabited island, the question would arise whether the limited fuel they would have carried could have helped them to reach Colombo. Since it was a kamikazee mission, they would not have needed fuel for a return journey.

Whatever be the fact as established ultimately, it is important that all the uninhabited islands in the Maldives area and in the Lakshadeep area of India are kept under effective watch to prevent the LTTE from setting up a beach-head on any of them.

B Raman
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