3RD LEAD

SLAF jet exploded over Mullaiththeevu

[TamilNet, Friday, 27 February 2009, 10:41 GMT]
A Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) bomber was shot down in Mullaiththeevu on Friday at 11:25 a.m., civilians sources in Ira'naippaalai told TamilNet. Several civilians saw the jet explode in mid-air as it was beginning an attack run towards an unidentified locality. A huge plume of smoke followed after the flaming debris fell to earth, they said. The LTTE is yet to comment on the attack. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) spokesman Wing commander Janaka Nanayakara has denied the report that one of their aircraft was shot down in Vanni.

The civilians observers could not say in whose controlled area the wreckage had fallen. The Sri Lankan army (SLA) is locked in fierce clashes with the LTTE in areas west of Puthukkudiyiruppu.

The civilians could not identify the aircraft type - SLAF operates Israeli built Kfirs and Mig-27s – and could not say what had brought the plane down. Defence writers observing Sri Lanka have long said the Tigers do not have surface-to-air missiles (SAMs).

The civilian sources in Ira'naippaalai said, however, that the SLAF, which continuously attacked Mullaiththeevu stopped flying over Vanni for 3 days after the LTTE launched an air raid against SLAF installations in Colombo last Friday night.

Sri Lanka claimed that both LTTE aircraft were shot down Friday before the pilots dropped their bombs and that one plane flew into the Inland Revenue building after being hit by anti-aircraft fire.

The LTTE said their pilots, who were earlier awarded with Neelap Puli Viruthu (The Blue Tiger Award) for five consecutive and successful flight operations of attack, were on a Black Air Tiger mission and gave military rank of Colonel and Lieutenant Colonel to the pilots.


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