Colombo air raid was Kamikaze attack, says LTTE
Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger guerrillas today said an air raid they carried out over the capital Colombo was a Kamikaze-style suicide attack. The rebel LTTE said two men from their elite "Black Air Tiger" suicide squad piloted the two light aircraft that carried out the attack on Friday night.world Updated: Feb 21, 2009 17:18 IST
Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger guerrillas on Saturday said an air raid they carried out over the capital Colombo was a Kamikaze-style suicide attack.
The rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said two men from their elite "Black Air Tiger" suicide squad piloted the two light aircraft that carried out the attack on Friday night.
The pro-rebel Tamilnet.com published a photograph of the two suicide pilots together with Tiger supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran said to have been taken shortly before they set off on the suicide mission.
Tamilnet said the targets were air force facilities in the heart of the capital as well as the main airbase adjoining the country's only international airport located about 35 kilometres (21 miles) north of Colombo.
One of the Tiger aircraft was shot down just within the perimeter of the airport complex while the other crashed into a 16-storey tax office located close to the air force headquarters in Colombo.
Tamilnet said the attacks were "successful," but military officials said the guerrillas had clearly missed the intended targets because of intense anti-aircraft fire from ground forces.
The Tigers said the attacks were carried out by a self-styled Colonel Roopan and Lieutenant Colonel Siriththiran. Both men were identified by one name each.
"Both the Tamileelam Air Force pilots have earlier been decorated with Blue Tiger award for having carried out successful air raids on enemy targets," the Tamilnet said quoting a statement from the Tigers.
At least two people on the ground were killed and 58 wounded, according to the main hospital in Colombo.
The Sri Lankan army said the Tiger aircraft that was shot down near the airport had been packed with explosives, but was shot down before it could cause any damage.
"The aircraft that flew to Katunayake (airport) area with the express view of causing a more extensive damage, has had a large quantity of explosives and powerful bombs inside it," the army said in a statement.
The aircraft, believed to be a Czech-built Zlin-143, crashed and the pilot's body was found intact.
"The dead Tiger pilot was carrying two cyanide capsules and a powerful bomb with his seat," the army said.
First Published: Feb 21, 2009 08:35 IST