Sri Lanka probes origin of Tiger aircraft

February 24, 2009 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s military said Tuesday it was trying to establish how the Tamil Tigers managed to buy light planes abroad, smuggle them onto the island and establish a rebel air force. According to the island’s defence ministry, the raid was the last air attack likely to be carried out by the Tamil Tigers — who have lost nearly all of their northern fiefdom in a major government offensive.

“The security forces have put in the last nails on the LTTE’s rudimentary air capability,” the ministry said on Sunday, adding the Tigers deployed the aircraft because they would have lost them anyway to advancing ground troops.

Two weeks ago, the army said it had captured the last of seven air fields used by the Tigers.

But the rebels may have used a patch of paved road in an area still under their control to take off, the ministry said. The probe follows the latest Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) air assault against the capital using two of their Czech-made aircraft.

The military shot down one aircraft just before it reached the intended target at the main airbase, while the second plane crashed into a tax building here on Friday night and exploded in a ball of fire