Air Force Commander Air Marshal Roshan
Goonetilleke on Thursday said he was confident that LTTE Leader
Velupillai Prabhakaran had been critically injured in a series
of air strikes on Nov. 26, 2007. The Air Force had, he revealed
in an interview with ITN, dropped twenty bombs in the raid and
all of them had hit the target. After that attack, he said, very
little had been heard or seen of Prabhakaran, who didn’t even
turn up at the funeral of senior LTTE leader Charles’.
He said the war would be over ‘very shortly’ but
refrained from giving a timeframe.
Goonetilleke said the jets involved in the
attack had come under very heavy anti-aircraft gunfire, which he
said was a sure sign of Prabhakaran being there at the time of
the attack. In the run up to the Nov. 26 attack, he said, the
Air Force had taken several targets in the Wanni but LTTE
resistance had not been so heavy. He said Prabhakaran had a
special mobile unit equipped with anti-aircraft guns. Judging by
the intensity of the LTTE anti-aircraft fire on Nov. 26, he
believed, it had come from that special unit.
He said the bombs used by the Air Force were
capable of destroying bunkers located deep underground.
In answer to a question, Goonetilleke said the
Air Force had information that the LTTE may have carried out a
missile attack on an earlier occasion but the SLAF jets were
unharmed as they were equipped with anti-missile systems.
Before taking the Nov. 26 target, the Air Force
chief said, he had briefed Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa
on the details of the planned air strikes and sought his
permission, which had been readily granted as there were no
civilians in the vicinity of the target, though it was close to
He said he didn’t subscribe to the view that
Prabhakaran had left the country for treatment. "A terrorist
leader usually doesn’t leave his movement at a critical juncture
like this," he said, "as he fears that someone else might take
He dismissed the news of Prabhakaran being
treated in India as baseless rumours.
Speaking of his official residence, Goonetillke
said, it was while residing there that he and his younger
brother Shirantha had joined the Air Force. He said his brother
had been killed when his fixed wing aircraft was hit by an LTTE
missile in 1995.
"I am sure we can finish this war, before I
leave this residence," he said adding that the mission of the
Air Force was to target the LTTE leadership and crush the
movement’s command structure.
He defended the government’s decision to
purchase Russian built MiG 27s, which he said could carry more
bombs than other jets. Kfirs, he said, were capable of air to
air strikes. The successful Nov. 26 attack, he said, had been
carried out with Kfirs and MiGs. The SLAF pilots, he said, were
happy with the MiGs and if anyone had doubts, they could consult
him and he would explain the correction position.
The Air Force chief paid a tribute to Defence
Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, who, he said, was the best
defence secretary the country had produced. "He knows our
requirements and is more than willing to help us," he said.