Tiger helicopter flying in the East?

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 03 November 1998, 13:00 GMT]
Panic spread in Special Task Force (STF) camps in the Batticaloa and Ampara districts today upon the receipt of reports that the Liberation Tigers have flown a helicopter to the areas in the hinterland held by them.

A unit of STF commandos from Akkaraippattu had moved out early this morning towards the Kanjikudichcha Aaru jungles in the southeastern sector of the Ampara district upon hearing reports that a helicopter had landed some Tigers in the area yesterday.

Cattle herders from the Kanjikudichcha Aaru jungles who were cross-examined by the STF had said that they did hear the noise of a helicopter in the interior but had taken no special interest thinking that it belonged to the Sri Lankan Air Force.

Meanwhile, a senior member of the TELO, a Tamil paramilitary group working with the Sri Lankan security forces in Batticaloa, said this afternoon that the STF camps south of Batticaloa have been alerted about a helicopter flown by the Liberation Tigers landing in Thaanthamalai, an interior village about 20 kilometers south west of Batticaloa.

The TELO leader said that the STF is alarmed by the report.

However, none of the reports could be independently verified.

There has been strong speculation in the Sri Lankan press since last month that the Liberation Tigers have acquired a helicopter and a fixed wing aircraft.

The reports have been dismissed by the Sri Lankan Army.

On Sunday (November 1) Sri Lanka's Deputy Minister for Defence, Anuruddha Ratwatte, scoffed at speculation that the LTTE has acquired aircraft.

Speaking in Anuradhapaura at a meeting of organisers of the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party, he said that reports that (LTTE leader) Pirabhakaran were only rumours. He added that if Pirabhakaran did have a helicopter he should "prove it".

The Deputy Defence Minister added that these reports were part of psychological war by the LTTE, and the opposition UNP was helping the Tigers in this regard. The Sri Lanka Army will win this war, he asserted.

However, Iqbal Athas, Sri Lanka's leading defence analyst wrote in the Sunday Times newspaper on October 1 that defence intelligence has confirmed that the Tigers now possess a helicopter or helicopters and pictures relayed by the Air Force UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) clearly showed the LTTE has now developed an airstrip adjoining the its base at Mullaitivu.


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