The LTTE mortar attack which injured diplomats and a group of security personnel as helicopters carrying them landed at the Webber stadium in Batticaloa on Tuesday, could have been avoided, if not for security negligence, as there had been shelling in the vicinity earlier that morning, a defence source told the Daily Mirror.
Despite the military publicly stating that the only attack to take place in the vicinity was on the previous night, the Daily Mirror has learnt that the LTTE had launched a mortar attack on the Air Force camp located two kilometers away from the Webber stadium, minutes prior to the helicopter landings.
When contacted by the Daily Mirror STF Commandant Nimal Lewke confirmed there was an attack on the Air Force camp minutes before the helicopters with the diplomats landed at the Webber stadium which is under the control of the STF.
Defence sources said as a result of the morning LTTE attack and the subsequent retaliation from an area within the Webber stadium, the relevant authorities should have redirected the helicopters as there was an imminent security threat to the area.
`The shelling took place between 7.30 and 8.15 that morning and the helicopters were scheduled to land at around 8.40 a.m. So there was definitely a security threat and the helicopters should have been re-directed to a safer location without going ahead with the scheduled landing,` the source said.
When asked by the Daily Mirror if he was aware of any security threat just prior to the landing, Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe responded in the negative adding that he was not informed of any attack even after his helicopter touched down.
Mr. Samarasinghe was among the delegates who had a narrow shave as a result of the attack which the Government believed was a deliberate attack on the dignitaries who were on a humanitarian mission to Batticaloa.However Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) Director Lakshman Hullugalle told the Daily Mirror there were no reports of any clash between the LTTE and the security forces in the vicinity that morning and as such there was no security threat until the moment the delegates came under attack.