[Debate] More than 20,000 Tamil civilians were killed
okhela at iafrica.com
Fri May 29 13:06:38 BST 2009
The hidden massacre: Sri Lanka's final offensive against Tamil Tigers
29th May 2009
More than 20,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the final throes of the Sri
Lankan civil war, most as a result of government shelling, an investigation
by The Times has revealed.
The number of casualties is three times the official figure.
The Sri Lankan authorities have insisted that their forces stopped using
heavy weapons on April 27 and observed the no-fire zone where 100,000 Tamil
men, women and children were sheltering. They have blamed all civilian
casualties on Tamil Tiger rebels concealed among the civilians.
Aerial photographs, official documents, witness accounts and expert
testimony tell a different story. With the world's media and aid
organisations kept well away from the fighting, the army launched a fierce
barrage that began at the end of April and lasted about three weeks. The
offensive ended Sri Lanka's 26-year civil war with the Tamil Tigers, but
innocent civilians paid the price.
Confidential United Nations documents acquired by The Times record nearly
7,000 civilian deaths in the no-fire zone up to the end of April. UN sources
said that the toll then surged, with an average of 1,000 civilians killed
each day until May 19, the day after Velupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of
the Tamil Tigers, was killed. That figure concurs with the estimate made to
The Times by Father Amalraj, a Roman Catholic priest who fled the no-fire
zone on May 16 and is now interned with 200,000 other survivors in Manik
Farm refugee camp. It would take the final toll above 20,000. "Higher," a UN
source told The Times. "Keep going."
Some of the victims can be seen in the photograph above, which shows the
destruction of the flimsy refugee camp. In the bottom right-hand corner,
sand mounds show makeshift burial grounds. Other pictures show a more
orderly military cemetery, believed to be for hundreds of rebel fighters.
One photograph shows rebel gun emplacements next to the refugee camp.
Independent defence experts who analysed dozens of aerial photographs taken
by The Times said that the arrangement of the army and rebel firing
positions and the narrowness of the no-fire zone made it unlikely that Tiger
mortar fire or artillery caused a significant number of deaths. "It looks
more likely that the firing position has been located by the Sri Lankan Army
and it has then been targeted with air-burst and ground-impact mortars,"
said Charles Heyman, editor of the magazine Armed Forces of the UK.
On Wednesday, Sri Lanka was cleared of any wrongdoing by the UN Human Rights
Council after winning the backing of countries including China, Egypt, India
A spokesman for the Sri Lankan High Commission in London said: "We reject
all these allegations. Civilians have not been killed by government shelling
at all. If civilians have been killed, then that is because of the actions
of the LTTE [rebels] who were shooting and killing people when they tried to
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