An aircraft flying Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and Army Commander Sarath Fonseka to Jaffna came under intense LTTE artillery attack when it was about to land at the Palaly Air base around 9.30 a.m. yesterday and had to return to Colombo, highly placed Defence sources said.
The duo was due in Jaffna yesterday to officiate at the Commissioning of a Mechanised Infantry Brigade, when their chopper came under attack. It was soon learnt the LTTE was directing artillery fire from Point Kalmunai in Pooneryn. The Air Force immediately bombed the area and the artillery fire ceased, the sources said.
Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa told The Island that he along with the Army Commander had wanted to make an inspection tour of the peninsula but when nearing Palaly, the pilot realized that the air base there was under artillery fire and they decided to return to Colombo.
Several aircraft were in and out of Palaly in the recent past and defence authorities are baffled at yesterday`s attack. The question troubling them is whether the LTTE had prior knowledge of the visit.
A total of 15 artillery rounds had been fired targeting the air base.
Att the time this edition went to press there were no reports on damage to the structures or the runway at Palaly.