Helicopter with Top Defense Official, Army and Police Chiefs Crashes
Dec. 07, 1996
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ A helicopter carrying Sri Lanka's deputy defense minister, army chief and police chief crashed today in a rebel-held jungle of northern Sri Lanka. There was no sign of survivors, military officials said.
Searchers in airplanes spotted the burning wreckage of the American-built Bell-212 air force helicopter several miles north of the Weli Oya army base, the officials said on condition of anonymity.
It was not known whether the rebels, who have surface-to-air missiles, shot down the helicopter. No distress message was received.
The deputy defense minister, Gen. Anuruddha Ratwatte, was on his way from northern Jaffna city to Weli Oya, 45 miles to the south, with army chief Lt. Gen. Rohan Daluwatte and Inspector General of Police Wickremasinghe Rajaguru.
It was not known how many others were on board.
Rescuers were unable to land since the area, 130 miles north of the capital, Colombo, is controlled by Tamil Tiger guerrillas, who have been fighting for an independent homeland for minority Tamils since 1983.
The rebels claim Tamils face discrimination in jobs and education at the hands of the majority Sinhalese. More than 46,000 people have died in the war.