2001 ஆம் ஆண்டு கட்டுநாயக்கா விமானப் படைத்தளத் தாக்குதலில் தம்மை ஆகுதியாக்கிய கரும்புலிகளுக்கு எமது வீரவணக்கம்
கட்டுநாயக்கா விமானப் படைத்தளத் தாக்குதல் ஜூலை 24, 2001 அன்று விடுதலைப்புலிகளின் 14 தற்கொலைப் படை உறுப்பினர்களால் நடத்தப்பட்ட இலங்கையின் வரலாற்றில் மிக முக்கியமான தாக்குதல் ஆகும்.
கட்டுநாயக்கா விமானப் படைத்தளத்திற்கு அருகிலேயே பண்டாரநாயக்கா சர்வதேச விமான நிலையம் அமைந்திருந்ததும் குறிப்பிடத்தக்கது. தாக்குதல் நடத்தப்படுவதற்கு ஒரு நாள் முன்னர் சிங்கள இசையைக் கேட்டுக் கொண்டிருந்த விடுதலைப்புலிகளின் உறுப்பினர்கள் விமான நிலையத்தின் அருகிலிருந்த பூங்காவில் இருந்தனர் என்றும் அவர்கள் மீது ஏற்பட்ட சந்தேகத்தினால் விமான நிலையத்திற்கு அருகில் வசித்தவர்கள் விமான நிலைய அதிகாரிகளுக்குத் தகவல்கள் அளித்தும் துரிதமான நடவடிக்கைகள் எடுக்கப்படவில்லை என்பதும் குறிப்பிடத்தக்கது. பின்னர் அங்கு அதிகாரிகள் வந்து பார்க்கும் பொழுது பூங்காவில் எவரும் இருக்கவில்லை என்பதும் குறிப்பிடத்தக்கது.
இத்தாக்குதலினை வடிவமைத்தவர்கள் விடுதலைப்புலிகளின் தலைவரான வேலுப்பிள்ளை பிரபாகரன் மற்றும் பொட்டு அம்மான் ஆகியோர்.
2001 ஜூலை 23 திங்கட்கிழமை மாலை 8.30 14 கரும்புலிகள் உறுப்பினர்கள் ராஜா பெர்னாண்டோ விளையாட்டு மைதானத்தில் கூடினர்.
2001 ஜூலை 23 திங்கட்கிழமை மாலை 9:45 மணியிலிருந்து 11:15 அப்பகுதியில் மின்சார சேவை தடைப்பட்டது.
2001 ஜூலை 24 செவ்வாய்க்கிழமை அதிகாலை 3:30 மணியளவில் தாக்குதல் தொடங்கப்பட்டது.
2001 ஜூலை 24 செவ்வாய்க்கிழமை படைத்தளத்தில் இருந்த 21 படை விமானங்கள் மற்றும் பயணிகள் விமானங்கள் அழிக்கப்பட்டன.
2001 ஜூலை 24 செவ்வாய்க்கிழமை காலை 8.30 மணிவரை தாக்குதல் நீடிக்கப்பட்டது.
தாக்குதலினால் ஏற்படுத்தப்பட்ட இழப்புகள் இலங்கை அரசின் கூற்றுப்படி அழிக்கப்பட்ட விமானங்கள் 14 என்று கூறப்பட்டது.
விடுதலைப்புலிகளின் அதிகாரப் பூர்வப் பத்திரிக்கையான ஈழநாதத்தின் கூற்றுப்படி அழிக்கப்பட்ட விமானங்கள் எண்ணிக்கை 28 ஆக வெளியிடப்பட்டது.
- இரண்டு எ (A) – 340 – 300 பயணிகள் விமானங்கள்
- ஒரு எ (A) – 330 -200 பயணிகள் விமானம்
- நான்கு கிபிர் போர் விமானங்கள்
- மூன்று கெ (K)-8 பயிற்சி விமானங்கள்
- இரண்டு எம்.ஜ.ஜி (MIG) – 27 ஜெட் போர் விமானங்கள்
- இரண்டு பெல் (bell) 412 உலங்கு வானூர்தி
- இரண்டு வி.வி.ஜ.பி (VVIP) 412 உலங்கு வானூர்தி
- இரண்டு எம்.ஜ (MI) -17 உலங்கு வானூர்தி
- மூன்று K-8
- இரண்டு – A-320 பயணிகள் விமானங்கள்
- ஒரு – A-340 பயணிகள் விமானம்
- ஒரு அண்டொனோவ் (Antonov) போக்குவரத்து விமானம்
- ஒரு எம்.ஜ (Mi) -24 உலங்கு வானூர்தி
- ஒரு பெல் (Bell) 412 உலங்கு வானூர்தி
- நான்கு கிபிர் போர் விமானங்கள்
விடுதலைப்புலிகளால் நடத்தப்பட்ட இத்தாக்குதலானது இலங்கையின் பொருளாதாரத்தில் வரலாறு காணாத மாற்றத்தை ஏற்படுத்தியது.
இத்தாக்குதலின் மூலம் சுமார் 375 மில்லியன் அமெரிக்க டாலர்களிற்கும் அதிகமான சொத்துக்கள் அழிக்கப்பட்டதும் குறிப்பிடத்தக்கது.
கட்டுநாயக்கா திட்டமிடல் கேணல் சார்ள்ஸ்
காலநதி ஓட்டத்தில் கரைந்திட முடியாதகாவியபெரு வரலாறு கேணல் சாள்ஸ்.
தாக்குதல் பாடல் காணொளியில்
கரும்புலிகள் தினத்தில் தலைவர் நினைவுப் பகிர்வு–காணொளி
தன் மக்கள் மீது குண்டு வீசிய இரும்புப் பறவைகள் அவற்றின் இருப்பிடத்தில் வைத்து தகர்த்தெறிந்து விட்டு மீளாத் துயிலும் கொள்ளும் கருவேங்கை
On Tuesday, July 23, 2001 at 3:30am, a strike team consisting of fourteen members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam infiltrated the Katunayake Airbase and commenced a 10 hour assault on the Sri Lankan Air Force. This battle caused the largest amount of financial loss to the Sri Lankan Army in the 18 years of the Tamil Eelam separatist conflict.
The total financial loss was estimated by the Sri Lankan government to be $375 million USD. The meticulously planned attack by the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) targeted SriLanka Airlines aircraft parked on the apron and another foreign-owned cargo plane was spared. When the battle was over 14 members of the LTTE, 7 soldiers of the Sri Lankan Air Force had been killed.
There were no civilian casualties. The confidence of the Sri Lankan military had been shattered. Planning the Attack Katunayake attack was conceptualized by LTTE leader Velupillai Prabakharan. The blueprint for the attack and training program for the operation was prepared by Prabakharan in association with Intelligence Chief Pottu Amman, Anti Aircraft and Air Wing head Shankar and Deputy Military Commander Balraj. The LTTE had already stalemated the Sri Lankan Army and Sri Lankan Navy.
எம் மக்களை கொன்றொழித்த சிங்களத்தின் பல வான்கலங்களைத் தன் தோழர்களுடன் தகர்த்தழித்து மீளாத் துயிலில் உறங்கும் கரிய வேங்கை
எம் மக்களை கொன்றொழித்த சிங்களத்தின் பல வான்கலங்களைத் தன் தோழர்களுடன் தகர்த்தழித்து மீளாத் துயிலில் உறங்கும் கரிய வேங்கை
The LTTE in the past had been successful in using Anti Aircraft guns and Surface to Air missiles in shooting down a few Sri Lankan Air Force planes. However the Sri Lankan Air Force had continued to upgrade their Air capabilities. Sri Lanka had purchased Israeli built Kfir bombers and Russian MIG-27 jet fighters with anti-missile defence systems.
Sri Lankan Air Force had also received training in the operation of these aircraft from Israeli and Ukrainian pilots based in Sri Lanka. The LTTE had conducted two attacks on the Sri Lankan Air Force in the early 1990s. The first inside the China Bay Airbase in Trincomalee destroyed two planes and three helicopters. The second inside the Palay Airbase in Jaffna destroyed one helicopter.
There was also an attack against Katunayake Airbase in which a taxi with explosives packed inside secret compartments was detected. Sri Lanka also maintains Airbases in Ratmalana, Anuradhapura, Trincomalee, Vavuniya and Palaly. The Katunayake Airbase Complex The Sri Lanka Air Force base at Katunayake, 35 km north of the capital, is the most important and the biggest airbase in the country.
Adjoining the airbase is the Bandaranaike International Airport, Sri Lanka’s only civilian airport, and its only air link to the outside world, besides being the ‘hub’ of the international operations of Sri Lankan Airlines. Together, the two constitute the most highly guarded facility in all of Sri Lanka. The complex has 90 sentry points around it, and over 500 men guarding it.
The Katunayaka Airbase / Bandaranaike International Airport is unique in that it hosts Sri Lanka’s largest military airbase alongside a major international airport. This is somewhat unusual because a clear distinction is usually maintained between civilian and military installations in the interests of civilians, particularly in times of war. Since the LTTE has been scrupulously in avoiding any harm for befalling foreigners as far as possible, it was calculated that the Tigers would not dare attack Katunayake. “Ten Squadron” Bombing Runs Sri Lanka had newly assembled an aerial bombardment fleet known as “Ten Squadron”.
It consisted of thirteen Kfirs and eight MIG-27s. Katunayake that had the most suitable infrastructure in terms of tarmac and runway facility for smooth multi-level take offs and landings for these aircraft, particularly the supersonic MIGs and Kfirs. Though the Katunayake attack had been put together in the year 2000 the LTTE had refrained from implementation because the LTTE had been observing a unilateral ceasefire. The Kumaratunga regime rejected the LTTEs peace offer and pursued war. It launched operation ‘Agni Kheela’ on April 24 which ended in failure. The turning point came when the government embarked on a massive bombing spree in the North on June 30, under the flimsy pretext that it was necessary to preempt an offensive planned by the Tigers to retake Jaffna. The LTTE denied this vehemently and issued a statement on July 2, warning the government that it must bear the consequences for the unwarranted air raids.
The LTTE Leopards The LTTE has assembled and trained a team consisting mainly of its elite commando unit known as “Chiruthaigal” or leopards to prepare for the attack. The Katunayake attack team consisted of some members of the anti aircraft and air wing and intelligence operatives. All of them had taken the Black Tiger oath and were willing to die. Models replicating the Katunayake complex were constructed and utilized for mock attack practices. Intelligence gathering about the Katunayake Airbase Complex had been going on for over a year.
The LTTE had operatives perform reconnaissance missions posing as travelers and visitors. This was made possible because the civilian BIA was in the same complex. An intelligence operative had rented out a house in the Katunayake area for a long time and mapped out the location. Members of the LTTE who were former employees of the Sri Lankan Air Force or Air Lanka also provided input. The LTTE’s intelligence bureau also succeeded in purchasing maps and blue prints from two middle ranking Air Force officers for a hefty amount. Both of these Air Force officers were Sinhalese. Primary Target Katunayake Airbase The LTTE intended to prevent civilian causalities. The Airport building was not to be attacked at any cost. Also the Air force base was to be attacked first so that civilians in the Airport could have adequate time to ensure their safety. A simultaneous attack on both targets was ruled out. The bulk of the assault team was transported by sea to the Western coast. Some guerrillas traveled by road and arrived in Colombo. The awesome arsenal required for the operation was also ferried by sea and lodged in a safe house off the western seaboard.
சிங்களத்து வான்படையின் வை-8 வானூர்தி கரிய வேங்கள் மூட்டிய தீயில் சாம்பலாய் கிடக்கிறது
By July 22, most members of the assault squad had assembled at a safe house in the interior of Gampaha district. The arms and ammunition necessary was also collected. The 21 member assault squad led by a senior leader addressed as “Amman” by the team clambered aboard a 36 seater luxury bus to take on a highly fortified airbase in the heart of Sinhala country. Preliminary maneuvers however were on. Intelligence operatives and advance scouts preceded the assault team to conduct reconnaissance missions.
கரிய வேங்களினால் அழிக்கப்பட்ட சிங்கள அரசின் போக்குவரத்து வானூர்தி
கரிய வேங்களினால் அழிக்கப்பட்ட சிங்கள அரசின் போக்குவரத்து வானூர்தி
These Tigers generally unarmed would most likely have traveled in singles or pairs to avoid attention. It is now understood that some came by road transport to the Katunayake Airport area while others took the train to Kurana situated between Katunayake and Negombo. Once the environment was monitored and risk factors measured, signals to go on with the mission were given the assault team through cellular phones. The luxury bus with tinted glass windows and curtains bore the name “Rosa”. It had a “Matara” destination board. The upper portion was brownish and lower portion grayish in colour. The bus was seen in Kadhirana and Kurana areas near the railway station after dusk. Though this was Black July and members of the security forces were on extra alert, the LTTE bus managed to pass though numerous check points mostly likely by bribing security officials. Picnic at Raja Fernando Playground The luxury bus was parked at the Raja Fernando playground in Kurana after 8:30 pm. The occupants got out, removed their footwear, stretched their legs and began consuming dinner. Most of them knew that this was going to be their last meal on earth. They ate out of food parcels and also had chocolate slabs and biscuit packets. Cans of soft drinks were also taken. The neighbourhood where the playground was situated was not densely populated, but several passersby took notice of the vehicle and men.
Some thought they were security personnel in civils as lilting Sinhala music was playing on a cassette player. A few who inquired were told in perfect Sinhala that they had come to Katunayake to bid farewell to friends departing to the middle east, and were now camping out in picnic style at the playground for the night. They would do some sight-seeing the following day and then depart to Matara. Many bought this explanation. A few like Xavier Dayananda Fernando, a resident of the area were suspicious. They informed Air Force personnel of their suspicion. But there was no immediate response. The usual power cuts in the area to conserve electricity was from 9:45 pm to 11:15 pm. When it ensued slightly earlier than usual that night, everything was pitch dark. The assault squad hastily finished their meal, changed into uniforms (mostly air force type with a few combat fatigues) and started out on their destination. In the hurry at least twelve pairs of footwear were left behind. Some were removed by residents later. The luxury bus dropped off the squad at the rail track in Kadirana area. The Tigers then used the overwhelming darkness as cover and started to walk on the rail track towards Katunayake airport.
They were also carrying several heavy sacks of armaments and equipment. The bus then sped off. The sacks were heavy with G-3 general purpose machine guns, T-56 assault rifles, 40 mm grenade launchers, Rocket Propelled grenade RPG launchers, shoulder fired disposable LAW, Light anti tank weapons, LMG light machine guns, packets of plastic explosives, magnetic devices with timers to affix explosives onto targets, detonators, mortars, shells, grenades, spare ammunition and night vision equipment comprised the heavy lethal cargo carried by the Tigers. Entering the Airbase Meanwhile some Air force personnel came to the playground after electricity supply was resumed to check out the “picnickers”. There were none. Empty soft drink cans, food parcel remains and biscuit and chocolate wrappers were strewn around. The Air force personnel did not suspect anything and told the residents who complained that the “picnickers” must have left after their “bajaw” and returned. This was a security lapse with grave consequences. The Tiger squad reached a point about 400 metres from the outer fence behind the Air base. There was an open stretch of land between the fence and the outskirts of the coconut grove that was a “no go zone’ as it was heavily mined. Also the fence was too was electronically activated and could electrocute intruders.
There was however a drainage canal that was partly sub – terranean. This was to prevent flooding of the runways and tarmac during rainy season. The water flowed through to a nearby marshy lagoon. It was stone dry now. The Tigers now began to crawl through this drainage canal towards the base. The advance column infiltrated the outer limits of the base through the canal and deactivated the electronic fence. The barbed wire was then cut systematically. Thereafter the entire team with their weapons and equipment got inside the base perimeter. The next step was to fix explosives to the three transformers.
தமது பணியை முடித்து தம்மை அழித்துக் கொண்ட கரிய வேங்கைகள் கைவிட்ட பொருட்களை வேடிக்கை பார்க்கும் சிங்களப் படையினர்
The Tigers had accurate maps and diagrams of the installation and knew exactly where everything was. Some Tigers also moved towards the hangars and prepared to explode the aircraft within. At 3:15AM a single subdued shot was fired by one of the Tigers. Air force sentries heard it and were puzzled but did not react sharply. It is presumed that the shot was some form of signal to the squad which divided itself into three main groups.
The electric transformers were blown up in rapid succession from 3:30 to 3:35AM. The Air base was enveloped in darkness. The Air force did not suspect anything at even this stage. Along with electricity board men attempts were on to check out and restore powers supply again. There were 350 Air force personnel of all categories in the base at the time of attack. While total darkness reigned the Tiger squad moved out in three directions. One went clandestinely to the Airport terminal and climbed on top of the control tower roof.
One went inside the hangar premises and started implanting explosives. The third went towards the tarmac and commenced affixing explosives. Explosions Then a Fire Fight The first explosion took place at 3.50 am. It occurred where the helicopters were parked. With the first explosion the Tigers started breaking out and advancing. The sentry positions were taken one after another. Prior knowledge of where each and every point was situated helped the LTTE to move systematically. The Tigers concentrated initially on targeting the base and next moved to the passenger aircraft in the airport.
The Tiger groups then subdivided themselves into two formations with one exploding the aircraft intermittently and the other providing cover fire. The three Tigers on top of the control tower used the strategically vantage point to obtain an aerial overview of the entire complex and engage in firing. Segments of the Air Force were pinned down by these marksmen. Later they kept security force formations trying to advance at bay through firing. In the final stages, these gunners targeted aircraft on the tarmac with heavy weapons successfully.
Even as fighting broke out the civilian authorities got alerted. 22 flights were scheduled to land an take off from midnight to noon on Tuesday 24th. Only five were over when the attack began. Passengers were off loaded, outgoing flights cancelled and incoming ones diverted. There was however mass panic and pandemonium. Employees and officials simply ran. Passengers and tourists were greatly frightened and terrorised. A foreigner described the scene aptly to a foreign news agency by saying the Sri Lankan Airport staff including security men were “flapping about like headless chickens”.
The long battle went on from 3:50 to 8:30 am. The tide began to turn against the Tigers after a specialised commando unit of the rapid deployment force arrived on the scene. The security forces who were utterly confused in the dark, began to get their act together after first light at the crack of dawn. The Tigers also began to run out of ammunition and also get tired. Even as a few Tigers made tactical withdrawals from the scene according to a set game plan, the others began to fall one by one. At least one Tiger was blown up with an exploding aircraft while some others were shot dead.
A few committed suicide after they ran out of firepower or when surrounded. The Sri Lankan commandoes used tear gas to immobilise two of the three Tigers at the control tower . The third apparently was missing. One of the guerrillas was found near the cooling plant on the roof and the other in the baggage sorting section. The two had taken their lives. 14 Tigers Dead Fourteen Tigers lay dead when the fighting was over. One body was shattered to bits in the explosion.
Five of the thirteen had taken their own lives. The others had been shot dead by the security forces. A lot of empty firearms and launchers were recovered. Ten security personnel two from the army and eight from the air force were killed. 19 airmen and 5 soldiers were injured. A handful of civilians had got injured of whom only two were admitted to hospital. These were an Ukrainian flight engineer and a Rupavahini cameraman were injured. At least seven Tigers are said to have escaped.
An intensive search has been launched to in the Kurana area to flush out Tigers suspected to be hiding in the area. An island wide hunt was launched for the luxury bus with several false alarms. True to form, more than 50 Tamils have been arrested as suspects so far. In a bid to impress the nation and the world the government ordered retaliatory bombing raids in the North-East using two K-firs and two MIG – 27’s.
A four member commission has been appointed to inquire into the incident and identify security lapses. The government has estimated the initial damage cost at 539.3 million US dollars. In rupees it could be nearly 50 billion. The adverse impact on tourism, foreign investment and foreign employment will be tremendous. Finally what was the extent of the destruction caused?
The government has given certain figures but LTTE sources dispute them. The “Eelanatham” published by the LTTE at Skanthapuram in the Tiger controlled area of Kilinochchi district has in a special issue of July 26th claimed that the number of aircraft affected in the attack were exactly double that of the official figures provided by the state. The newspaper however has not quoted the LTTE on this but has made this claim on the basis of information supplied by knowledgeable sources in Colombo.
SLAF Losses The Tigers have not issued any statement on the Katunayake attack so far, although Tamil journals published in Sri Lanka and abroad have given wide prominence to the incident. Since the “Eelanatham” is directly controlled by the LTTE it is surmised that the relevant news story is endorsed and approved by the LTTE hierarchy. According to the “Eelanatham” 28 aircraft have been destroyed or damaged and not 14 as stated by government circles. Of these 18 are completely destroyed while 10 are substantially damaged. The destroyed 18 aircraft are as according to the newspaper three Airbuses ( 2 A – 340 – 300’s and one A – 330 -200), four K-fir bombers, three K – 8 trainer planes, two Mig – 27 jet fighters, Two MI -17 helicopter gunship , two bell 412 helicopters and two VVIP 412 helicopters. Eelanatham has also said that the 10 damaged aircraft are another three Airbuses (two A 320’s and one A -330) four K-fir bombers, one MI – 24 helicopter, One Antonov transport plane and one Bell 412 helicopter. The Eelanatham claim contrasts sharply with that of Colombo’s figures according to which eleven aircraft are destroyed and three damaged.
The official breakdown of those destroyed are three airbuses, three K-8 trainer planes, two K- fir bombers, one MIG-27 jetfighter and two MI-17 helicopter gunships. Three airbuses are damaged. According to the Eelanatham the losses incurred by the Air Force has reduced its bombing capability by 45 %. The newly formed “Ten Squadron” fleet utilised for bombing has lost two out of eight MIG – 27’s and four out of thirteen K-firs. In addition four K’firs are decommissioned due to damage. The Wanni newspaper has also stated that severe infrastructural destruction has also been done. It says that the special bombing storage facility used to keep lethal high explosive bombs was blown up along with the contents inside. The Arms warehouse cum ammunition dump within the airbase has also been demolished totally said the newspaper.
Also the fuel storage tank for the Air Base as well as three oil tankers have been destroyed. The “Eelanatham” has charged the government of trying to suppress the real facts about the attack to prevent erosion of international confidence in the regime and also because of fears that the Sinhala public would agitate against the government, blaming it for the colossal losses incurred. Only time will reveal which version of the destruction caused is correct. PTA Arrested Tamils Released The Attorney General on February 21, 2002 directed the Negombo Magistrate to release all the thirty-two Tamils arrested and remanded in connection with the attack on Sri Lanka Air Force head quarters at Katunayake on July 24, 2001. All the suspects have been detained at Kalutara prisons under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
Tension after dawn raid
[TamilNet, Tuesday, 24 July 2001, 08:47 GMT]
Thirteen air crafts including two Kfir jet fighters, one MI-24 Helicopter gun ship and one MIG-27- jet fighter were destroyed in the predawn attack on the Katunayake air base, about 35 km. north of Colombo, by members of the Liberation Tigers, according to official military sources in Colombo.
Three military trainee planes and five civilian jets were also among the destroyed air crafts.
Military sources in Colombo said several ammunition dumps and oil storage were also destroyed.
They said 12 attackers and 4 Air Force personnel have been killed. Nineteen air force personnel were also wounded.
Residents living close to the air base said large explosions rocked the area and gun battle continued for nearly four hours.
Sri Lankan military authorities have declared an indefinite curfew in several areas in the Negombo district. “The activities of the International airport have been temporarily suspended” a government special communiqué said this morning.
The temporary closure of the international airport has been notified to international airlines, according to the Director of Civil Aviation, Lal Liayanarachchi.
Katunayake, Negombo, Minuwangoda, Divulapitiya, Seeduwa and Jaela police areas are now under curfew, security sources said.
Meanwhile no one is allowed to enter Colombo harbour Tuesday morning as a precautionary measure, following the attack on Katunayake said sources.
President Ms Chandrika Kumaratunge Tuesday morning held an emergency meeting with chiefs of three armed forces and the Inspector General of Police following the attack.
Earlier the Deputy Minister of Defense General Anuruddha Ratwatte inspected the airforce base accompanied by the Defense Ministry Secretary Chandrananda de Silva, President’s Secretary K. Balapatepandi, chiefs of three armed forces and the Inspector General of Police