LTTE ATTACKS KATUNAYAKE AIR FORCE BASE
IN THE AFTERMATH OF RECENT DEFEATS
In 2005, Head of SLMM warned LTTE “air
assets” threatened Sri Lanka’s domestic security and
violated international law
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE),
also known as Tamil Tigers, launched an aerial attack on the Air
Force base in Katunayake, in the early hours of March 26, 2007.
This attack came in the aftermath of major defeats suffered by
Tamil Tigers in the east at the hands of the security forces and
devastating losses within three weeks, of three ships that were
sunk by the Sri Lanka Navy along with arms and ammunition and
other military hardware they were carrying for the Tamil Tigers.
Although the attack failed to achieve its objective of destroying
aircraft at the base, three Air Force personnel died and 16 others
Three bombs dropped by a light aircraft fell
near the hangers at the Engineering section of the air base and
two of them exploded, while the third failed to explode. The Air
Force defence system ensured that the enemy planes posed no further
threat to the air base.
Following the attack, the Bandaranaike International
Airport (BIA), which is in the vicinity of the air base, was closed
for approximately two hours, purely as a precautionary measure,
and flights were diverted to Trivandrum, to Chennai and to Male.
The Sri Lanka Tourist Board rose to the occasion to ensure that
inbound and outbound tourists were provided maximum possible assistance,
resulting in minimum inconvenience to them. The BIA is currently
fully operational and all incoming and outgoing flights are on
In recent weeks, the Tamil Tigers suffered major
defeats in the east as the security forces succeeded in rescuing
civilians held hostage by them, while also giving them no option
but to withdraw from camps in strategic locations.
It is most appropriate to note the warning of
the Head of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), Mr. Hagrup
Haukland, in May 2005, when he said that the Tamil Tiger “air
assets” threatened Sri Lanka's domestic security and violated
international laws. “It is a tricky one and a serious violation.
It threatens not only domestic security, but India has also expressed
concern,” Mr. Haukland said at the time. He also said that
he had seen the LTTE airstrip in Kilinochchi from a helicopter
on March 4, 2004 - a day after the rebellion by the LTTE's former
eastern regional commander, V. Muralitharan also known as “Col.
Karuna.” He added that the LTTE had “denied access”
to the SLMM to inspect the airstrip, which he termed as “a
When the late Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar
paid his last visit to the US in June 2005, the LTTE’s construction
of an air field and its acquisition of air capability were discussed
as matters of serious concern with Secretary of State Dr. Condoleeza
Rice and Deputy National Security Advisor, Dr. J.H. Crouch. Mr.
Kadirgamar voiced concern that given the LTTE’s past record,
there was a real possibility of aircrafts being used for suicide
operations. The Minister said that this development was forcing
Sri Lanka to strengthen its air defense capability. He explained
how air capability in the hands of a terrorist organization could
become a potential threat to civil aviation and to the commercial
shipping activity and urged the international community to persuade
the LTTE to dismantle its air capability in a verifiable manner.
In the meantime, the Government has said it is
determined to face any challenge in its battle to eradicate the
menace of terrorism and will, at all costs, safeguard unity, sovereignty
and territorial integrity of the nation.
Embassy of Sri Lanka
27 March 2007