Did LTTE plane down SLAF helicopter?

[TamilNet, Saturday, 27 October 2007, 21:53 GMT]
Whilst the Sri Lankan government has blamed engine failure for the crash of the Bell 212 last Monday, press reports Sunday raised the possibility it had been downed by a Tamil Tiger aircraft. Four airmen, including the pilots and door gunners were killed when the Bell 212, enroute to support the defence of Anuradhapura airbase which was under attack by LTTE commandos.

The helicopter had been scrambled after two Tamileelam Air Force (TAF) planes bombed the airbase in support of the LTTE ground attack.

The Sunday Times’ defence columnist, Iqbal Athas said this week the helicopter had been shot down, but not by the Tigers commandos fighting on the airbase deep behind enemy lines.

“The [crew] were in the skies over Doramadalawa in Mihintale when the helicopter was hit by gunfire. However, it was not from the Tiger guerrillas,” he said, without elaborating.

The Sunday Leader’s defence column spoke to eyewitnesses who saw the helicopter catch fire in mid-air as it turned to engage one of the LTTE aircraft which was traveling in the opposite direction.

At least one eye witness, 45 year old W. K. Wimaladasa of Doramadalawa, said that he saw the chopper change direction mid air and tried to chase or intercept the Tiger craft flying away.

“The chopper was coming in from the north and the Tiger plane was flying north, west of the chopper, and the chopper turned towards the plane," he said.

Wimaladasa said that he saw the chopper catch fire in mid air and that the Tiger craft appeared to have at least directed a flash at it, an account supported by his wife.

“The Tiger craft also hovered in the area for an instant before fleeing,” the paper said.

The LTTE plane was heading towards the Saliyapura Sri Lanka Army camp when the SLAF chopper made the attempt to chase it down, the paper said.

"The Tiger plane then just flew straight."

Wimaladasa said that by the time the chopper came down the anti-aircraft fire at the Saliyapura camp had not commenced and it was only after the chopper crashed that many feared that Saliyapura too was under attack.


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