The emergency telephone number 116 set up by the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) to seek public information on suspicious flying objects has generated an overwhelming response, but the avalanche of calls received from alert citizens anxious to help, have so far related to sightings of SLAF aircraft itself.
`Yes, when the SLAF verified information conveyed by people about sighting suspicious aircraft, they were found to be our own flying machines`, Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe said.
He said that there has been a flood of calls from concerned members of the public, some of which related to `low flying, suspicious aircraft`, but all of them were found to belong to the SLAF.
`They were all cases of misidentifying SLAF planes`.
Asked about reports of a `low-flying LTTE aircraft` being sighted off Omanthai yesterday, Brig. Samarasinghe replied: `That was another one the SLAF did check on and found to be one of their own`.
Questioned whether any suspicious aircraft had been spotted by the military in the Wanni yesterday, he said, `No, absolutely not`.
Brig. Samarasinghe explained that a considerable number of calls originated from people living in areas of conflict as the role played by SLAF aircraft in the North-East theatre was more intense.
`As these people see more aircraft than others, the volume of sightings are obviously more`.
The SLAF rolled out a special emergency telephone number for public assistance on sightings of suspicious flying objects following the unprecedented LTTE air raid on the SLAF Katunayake base which killed three airmen and injured 16 others.
Despite conflicting claims, the government maintains that no SLAF aircraft were hit in the surprise attack by two low flying LTTE planes which dropped three bombs on the base. However, only two exploded.