February 20, 2009: Suicide airplane attack in Sri Lanka

On February 20, 2009 the LTTE tried to fly small light aircraft into military installations in and around Sri Lanka’s capital city, Colombo.

COLOMBO, SRI LANKA – Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery or so they say. It seems terrorists think so too!

Of all the terrorist groups I have come across in my career in security intelligence and afterwards I have to admit that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are the top dog (or top cat – see below!). They were active for three decades in Sri Lanka in their quest for a homeland for that nation’s Tamil minority before they were ultimately ‘defeated’ (are terrorist groups ever really ‘defeated’?) in 2009.

During their campaign of violence they killed thousands (Tens of thousands? Accurate figures are hard to come by), including a former Indian prime minister and a serving Sri Lankan president. The terrorist group was also known for innovative techniques used to plan attacks: my favourite has to be the ‘midget sub‘!). And they had a really cool logo one has to admit.

Take that Ringling Brothers Circus! (Photo: Andrew Currie on flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

For all their ingenuity, however, they did look to other terrorist organisations for ideas on occasion.

On this day in 2009

The LTTE tried to fly small light aircraft into military installations in and around the capital city, Colombo. The Sri Lankan Air Force was able to shoot them down before they reached their targets: however, one plane did hit the offices of the Inland Revenue Department, killing two and wounding 50.

Detection of parts of strewn pieces of flesh, said to belong to the Tiger (LTTE) pilot, found on some floors proved that the pilot would have lost control of it after hit by Air Defence Systems.

Sri Lankan military statement

This was so very obviously a carbon copy of 9/11. Luckily for innocent Sri Lankans the airliners were smaller and their ultimate goal was foiled. Still, two deaths should not be discounted. Another ‘innovation‘, albeit an imitation, for the LTTE.

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By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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