LTTE may target India, warns Lanka army chief

A scorned Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) could carry out air attacks on economic and civilian targets in south India, says Sri Lanka’s army chief. Sutirtho Patranobis examines...

world Updated: Feb 24, 2009 00:41 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times

A scorned Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) could carry out air attacks on economic and civilian targets in south India, said Sri Lanka’s army chief.

With the Indian government clearly separating the Tamil from the Tiger and the rebels’ latest plea for ceasefire rejected by the Lankan government on Monday, an air attack in India could be LTTE’s way of exacting revenge.

“The air wing of the LTTE is definitely a threat (to India). The LTTE and their sympathisers in South India are angry that the Indian government is no longer toeing the LTTE line; it is now only talking about the plight of the civilians,'” army chief, Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka told Hindustan Times on Monday.

“They are capable of flying all the way from the north-east of Sri Lanka, attack targets in Colombo (more than 250 km one way) and fly back. They can do the same in India,” Fonseka said.

Even after the army had captured all seven LTTE air fields, the rebels were able to fly their aircraft from a 600 metre long road for their attack on Colombo.

On Friday night, two LTTE aircraft — Czech-built Zlin-143 light aircraft — dropped bombs and triggered panic in the heart of Colombo. The aircraft were carrying more than 200 kg of the potent C4 explosives. It was the eighth air attack carried out by the LTTE since April 2007 and only the first time that rebel aircraft were shot down.

According to Fonseka, LTTE’s low flying aircraft — which makes radar detection difficult — could easily penetrate more than 150-170 km inside India.

“And if they are on a suicide mission, the aircraft could fly deeper and not come back at all,” he said.

India’s long southern coastline would be an advantage for the Tigers who, according to Fonseka, have at least two more aircraft.

But will attacking India be the correct strategy for LTTE, now facing widening criticism for allegedly holding on to thousands of displaced Tamil civilians?

“The LTTE had the audacity or were stupid enough to assassinate Rajiv Gandhi on Indian soil. They do not believe in peace or talks. Now they are just confined to around 35 sq km on the main land and some 20 sq km of beach area in Mullaitivu. They are desperate,” Fonseka said.

As for LTTE chief V. Prabhakaran’s whereabouts, Fonseka said he is still hiding in Mullaitivu.

First Published: Feb 24, 2009 00:36 IST