5TH LEAD (Added details)

Tigers claim Anuradhapura air base attack success, say 8 aircrafts destroyed

[TamilNet, Monday, 22 October 2007, 05:55 GMT]
Twenty-one elite Black Tiger commandos penetrated into the heart of the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) air base in Anuradhapura at 3:20 a.m. Monday, destroyed and set ablaze eight aircrafts, including helicopter gunships, reconnaissance aircraft and a training aircraft, in a raid code named "Operation Ellaa'lan," Liberation Tigers of Tamileelam (LTTE) military spokesman Irasiah Ilanthirayan said. Air Tiger aircrafts joined the attack at 4:30 a.m., providing support in the destruction of the SLAF base, and safely returned to their bases in Vanni, the Tigers said. Meanwhile, Sri Lankan spokesman Keheliya Rambukwela said 3 helicopters were damaged, 13 airmen were killed and 18 wounded.

Black Tiger attack team with LTTE leader
21-member Black Tiger elite commandos with LTTE leader V. Pirapaharan, before embarking on their mission towards Anuradhapura [Photo: LTTE]

The Tigers, in their first combined air and Black Tiger ground attack have targeted the largest military installation in the Main Supply Route between Colombo and Vavunniyaa, at Saliyapura in Anuradhapura in the North Central province, in the early hours of Monday.

Black Tigers were still in control of the main complex at 11:00 a.m., the Tiger spokesman said, stating that the Sri Lankan military has sustained heavy losses in the attack.

A MI-24 gunship of the Sri Lanka Air Force
Helicopters including two MI-24 gunships, one MI-17, one PT6, one Bell 212, a CTH 748, and a reconnaissance aircraft were destroyed in the attack, according to Mr. Ilanthirayan.

In addition, a Bell helicopter has crashed with its 4-member crew.

Sri Lankan military sources remained tight-lipped over the details of the destruction, but said two Russian built MI-24 air crafts had sustained damages when the Tigers dropped "two aerial shells" from their aircraft and that a Bell helicopter, had crashed in a hurried landing.

However, an informed military source in Vavuniyaa said the helicopter was shot down by Sri Lankan anti-aircraft fire.

AFP quoted military sources as saying the bigger loss for the Sri Lankan forces apart from the fatalities was the destruction of a Beechcraft aircraft fitted with advanced electronic spy devices.

13 SLAF airmen were killed, 9 inside the base and four in the helicopter crash, and 18 wounded in the attack, according to Sri Lankan military spokesman Keheliya Rambukwela.

Mr. Rambukwela further claimed that the military has recovered 20 dead bodies of the attackers.

The Tigers who stormed the base had an anti-aircraft position under their control during the attack, according to the source in Vavuniyaa.

SLAF's Chinese-made K-8 trainer aircraft and a propeller driven naval reconnaissance aircraft were also destroyed, "crippling the Sri Lanka Navy's deep sea operations," Iqbal Athas, Sri Lanka correspondent of Jane's Defense Weekly told Hindustan Times. 12 to 18 aircraft might have been damaged or destroyed, according to Iqbal Athas.

Meanwhile, the Tigers have released photos of the 21-member Black Tiger attack team that included three female Black Tigers and the Air Tiger personnel who took part in the attack. The photos were taken when LTTE leader V. Pirapaharan sent the commandos on their mission, the Tigers said.

The LTTE leader had code named the attack "Operation Ellaa'lan," TamilNet's Vanni correspondent quoted a high ranking LTTE official as saying. Ella'lan (Elara) was a Tamil (Chola) king, referred as the Just King by the Buddhist chronicles, ruled the island from the ancient city of Anuradhapura, in the 2nd century BC.

Air Tigers
Air Tigers before leaving on their mission [Photo: LTTE]

A section of the Black Tiger commandos with LTTE leader [Photo: LTTE]
A section of the Black Tiger commandos with LTTE leader [Photo: LTTE]
Air Tiger members with LTTE leader V. Pirapaharan [Photo: LTTE]
Air Tiger members with LTTE leader V. Pirapaharan [Photo: LTTE]



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