LTTE planes drew Indian embassy gunfire as Rajapaksa moved to bunker- report

[TamilNet, Sunday, 02 November 2008, 23:02 GMT]
Indian gunners in the Indian embassy compound in Colombo “fired relentlessly” at the LTTE aircraft that were returning to Vanni after bombing on the Kelanitissa power station Tuesday, a Sri Lankan press report said Sunday. Quoting reliable sources, the Lakbima newspaper also reported that Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse was ushered into a special bunker during the air raid ‘purely as a precaution’’. Meanwhile, the Sunday Times said the LTTE had used a new kind of bomb on the Army Headquarters in Tha'l'laadi, Mannaar and that Sri Lankan jet’s missile was unable to ‘lock on’ to the LTTE plane.

“The [Indian embassy] gunners fired repeatedly shaking some of the adjacent buildings such as Galle Face to its foundations,” the Lakbima reported.

“A guest in one of the Galle Face hotel rooms crept under a bed and said he never heard such gunfire in his life, and that he felt he should “dive for cover.’’ He said the walls of the building shook, and he feared an imminent calamity,” the paper said.

In the backdrop of Tamil Nadu calls on the Indian Central to take action in the Sri Lankan conflict, some sources asked ‘who gave the order to shoot?’”, the Lakbima said.

Lakbima quoted other sources as speculating the Indian government had stationed gunners in the embassy compound “fearing an attack on the embassy by the unpredictable Tamil Tigers.”

Saying it had “reliably learnt” President Rajapakse was momentarily ushered into a special facility for ‘’added security,” the paper said there was no confirmation from presidential sources of such an occurrence.

On Tuesday an LTTE aircraft had bombed the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) Headquarters in Thallady in Mannar whilst another had flown south to attack the Kelanitissa power station.

The Sunday Times’ defence columnist, Iqbal Athas, quoted Sri Lankan military sources as saying the aircraft which attacked the SLA Thallady Headquarters had dropped a new kind of bomb compared to previous LTTE air raids.

"They [bombs] exploded in the sky and propagated on the ground," one source told Athas. The bombs appear to be more effective than the ones used earlier the source added.

Sources this week told TamilNet that the airstrike on the SLA Tha'l'laadi HQ had damaged two helicopters – an Mi-24 gunship and Bell transport.

As the other TAF plane flew towards Colombo, two airliners – SriLankan Airlines UL 425 from Bangkok and Cathay Pacific CX 703 from Hong Kong - were diverted to Chennai and flew back at 2 a.m., the Sunday Times also said.

The plane dropped three bombs on the Kelanitissa power station. A part of the facility had been engulfed in flames which took an hour to put out, the paper said. The damage would take six months and Rs 100m to repair, the paper said, quoting a government minister and electricity board sources.

Tracing the TAF plane’s route “showed that the air attack had been carefully planned to avoid anti-aircraft fire from the ground,” the paper said.

A pursuing Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) F-7 interceptor located the departing LTTE aircraft on its radar three times, but could not "lock the target" to enable the firing mechanism of the heat seeking surface to air missile to be automatically activated, the paper said.

According to the SLAF, the Tigers had carried out modifications to heat emission from their planes’ exhaust, from being targeted by the F-7 interceptors, the paper said.

Meanwhile, Some Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) engineers breathed a sigh of relief that F-7 interceptors were not over Kelanitissa power station to shoot down the LTTE plane, the paper said. “If a heat seeking air-to-air missile was fired, there was a chance that it could have homed in on a greater heat source at the power station.”



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