Six Soviet Mig-17 fighter planes arrived in Colombo yesterday (21 April) for combat mission against insurgents trying to overthrow the government of Mrs.
Six Soviet Mig-17 fighter planes arrived in Colombo yesterday (21 April) for combat mission against insurgents trying to overthrow the government of Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike. Soviet pilots and ground crews were in the country to train Ceylonese crews to fly the aircraft. Aid has also been received from Yugoslavia, Britain, India and Pakistan. The possibility of American combat planes being flown in has not been ruled out by Ceylonese Army leaders.
The insurgents, known as "Che Guevarists", number about 10,000 as opposed to government forces of over 9,000 according to Ceylonese Army information. The insurgents are comprised primarily of students, but many from the large group of unemployed middle class have also joined their ranks. The group wants radical political change, and feels the government of Mrs. Bandaranaike is moving too slowly in its socialist reforms.
Last Saturday (18 April) Visnews cameraman, Willie Phua, visited the town of Kegalla, north of the capital of Colombo. Ceylonese army officers there displayed captured weapons and uniforms used by the insurgents, and said that the main concentration of the opposing forces was centred in rubber and tea plantation triangle near Kegalla. The insurgent strength in the area was estimated at 5,000 out of a population of 150,000, according to army sources.
SYNOPSIS: In the town of Kegalla, north of the capital city of Colombo, Ceylonese Army troops are closing in on the main concentration of insurgents, according to army sources. It is believed that a force of five-thousand so-called "Che Guevarists" is in a rubber and tea plantation near here.
The Army says that four-hundred-and fifty of the insurgents have been killed, and more than two-thousand suspects have been captured. The insurgents began this guerrilla fighting campaign on the fifth of April. The group wants radical political change, and feels the government of Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike is moving too slowly in its socialist reforms.
The insurgents are armed primarily with pistols and shotguns, but home made petrol and dynamite bombs are used frequently. It is believed that the guerrillas have seized twelve-thousand sticks of dynamite from a graphite mine in the area. The Army claims that most of the guerrillas are between the ages of nineteen and twenty-two, but readily admit that they are a highly disciplined force. The total force is estimated to be ten thousand, with as many as half that number in the area near Kegalla. Troops have seized caches of weapons used by the insurgents, including hunting rifles, shotguns, and dynamite.
Army officers here said that the guerrillas are felling trees across secondary roads, preventing wider use of armoured cars. Six Soviet fighter 'planes arrived in Colombo on Wednesday, and may be used for combat missions against insurgents in this area.