Posts Tagged ‘Tamil civilians’

Tamils shot by army after attempting to ‘escape’ from internment camp

September 28, 2009

The Times/UK, Sep 28, 2009

Jeremy Page, South Asia Correspondent

Sri Lankan troops opened fire on dozens of Tamil civilians as they allegedly tried to escape from internment camps where they and 280,000 others have been held since the defeat of the Tamil Tiger rebels in May.

Police said that three of the civilians suffered gunshot wounds, but a pro-Tiger website put the number at six, and said that they had been out collecting firewood rather than attempting to escape.

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The hidden massacre: Sri Lanka’s final offensive against Tamil Tigers

May 29, 2009

The Times, UK, May 29, 2009

Catherine Philp in Colombo

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 and Cuba.

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 escape.”

Sri Lanka’s uneasy peace

May 19, 2009
Al Jazeera, May 19, 2009
The Sri Lankan army says it has killed the top leaders of the LTTE [AFP]

Al Jazeera correspondent Tony Birtley has covered the Sri Lankan conflict since 1992. As the government declares victory over the Tamil Tigers he takes a look at the prospects for peace in the country.

In the lair of the Tigers the last bullets, apparently, are being fired in a bloody war that has cost tens of thousands of lives, billions of dollars and deprived one of South Asia’s most beautiful countries of peace for more than 30 years.

According to the Sri Lankan government, the war is all but over, one of the world’s most ruthless and sophisticated rebel organisations has been defeated.

Peace and reconciliation will follow, it says, and Sri Lanka will pick up the pieces and live in harmony.

But will it?

Certainly the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have ceased to exist as the conventional fighting force they evolved into.

They once numbered 30,000 strong and inflicted heavy defeats on the Sri Lankan military over the years, defeats that hurt the pride and prestige of the armed forces.

To understand the strength of the Tigers you have to understand the support they commanded from nearly a million Tamil diaspora spread throughout the world.

They provided the money and the network that gave the LTTE their arms, supplies and channels.

Continued support

Political and financial support for the Tamil Tigers remains strong [AFP]

Although some were forced to donate to the cause, many gave voluntarily and that support remains. If anything it is stronger than ever before.

The images of wounded, suffering Tamil civilians hurt and cowering in so called safe zones enraged many.

To critics of the Sri Lankan government it merely reinforces the view that injustice and discrimination against Tamil civilians that led to the start of this conflict still exists.

They point to the use of army controlled camps for the displaced, the fact that thousands of Tamils have disappeared without anyone being charged, and that few have been allowed to return to their homes.

The Sri Lankan government has always denied discrimination against Tamils.

They argue that their mission was to liberate Tamils from Tigers control and refute allegations that the security forces have been involved in either abductions or extra judicial killings of civilians.

Right or wrong it indicates the level of mistrust that exists between the two sides, mistrust that will take time to break down, mistrust that led to the formation of the Tamil Tigers in the 1970s.

Everyone said that the Sri Lanka problem could never be solved by military means, only by political means.

‘Political solution’

In video

Can Sri Lanka win the peace?
Sri Lankans celebrate end of war

Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Sri Lankan president, proved everyone wrong, but he had to spend a small fortune on the military to make it happen. He says a political solution will now follow.

But the question is, with whom? Who is there left to talk to?

The LTTE leadership has been decimated and many free thinking Tamil leaders have been killed or fled the country.

Critics say any political solution with the Tamils who remain will be meaningless.

The Tamil Tigers started as a hit and run guerrilla organization with deadly effect.

It is not beyond possibility that it could rise from the ashes and go back to doing what it did best.

In 30 years the Tigers never touched the coastal areas where foreign tourists spend their holidays. That could easily change.

The Sri Lankan Tourism Industry is already preparing for an end of war campaign to bring holidaymakers back to the Island. A cash strapped government is banking on it.

But one bomb could so easily shatter those hopes.

As a government Sri Lanka has lost some friends. It has replaced them with the likes of China and Libya.

But money cannot buy happiness.

Thousands of soldiers and civilians have been killed and wounded in pursuit of a united Sri Lanka. That has been achieved geographically, but not yet politically.

The war has been won but what about the peace?

Trapped Sri Lankans face starvation

April 25, 2009
Al Jazeera, Apr 25, 2009

The UN says 6,500 people have died in the conflict in three months [AFP]

Tens of thousands of civilians in Sri Lanka’s northern war zone face starvation, Tamil Tiger separatists and government officials have said.

The warning comes as the UN’s senior humanitarian official is due in the country to assess the crisis.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said in a statement on Saturday that food stocks had dwindled, making starvation “imminent”.

They have called on the UN and the international community to ensure that supplies are swiftly sent to the area where an estimated 50,000 people remain.

“We fear that further delay can result in a crisis similar to that faced in Darfur or even deadlier,” the group said in a statement published on the rebel-allied TamilNet website.

Dire situation

The civilians’ dire situation has deteriorated in recent days with the Sri Lankan military pressing ahead with its offensive to destroy the LTTE in a war that has been raging for a quarter of a century.

Al Jazeera’s David Chater, reporting from Sri Lanka, said: “We have heard from many people that humanitarian supplies still around were being taken by the Tamil Tigers and sold to the people [displaced by fighting].

“Many of the people I saw were in an advanced state of dehydration. Many of the older people were extremely malnourished and you can only imagine what it is like for the children trapped inside the conflict zone.”

Camps for the displaced have received 100,000 people in just a week [AFP]

He said that the camps for internally displaced people had recieved a “huge influx” – more than 100,000 in just one week – and they “definitely need help as well not only from the UN but also from any government that can bring aid to them”.”It is a desperate situation for those who have just escaped and the Tigers said it was equivalent to Darfur and might even be deadlier,” Chater reported.

Aid workers say more than 100,000 civilians have fled the tiny coastal strip still under the control of the LTTE, flooding hospitals in the north and overwhelming government-run camps for the displaced.

Dr Gnana Gunalan, director of health services in Trincomalee district and former chairman of Sri Lanka Red Cross, told Al Jazeera that the displaced people he saw had starved for days and were malnourished and needed food.

“Their first priority is food. Everybody is asking for food,” he said.

The UN says at least 50,000 civilians remain caught in the war zone.

The Tamil Tigers says the number of civilians is three times that estimated by the UN.

Medicine shortage

Dr Thangamuttu Sathyamurthi, a senior Sri Lankan government health official, said on Friday that there was a severe shortage of food and medicines.

The government has barred aid groups and journalists from the area since last year, arguing that it is too dangerous for them.

The UN sent John Holmes, its senior humanitarian official, to Sri Lanka on Saturday to look into the welfare of the civilians, Marie Okabe, the UN deputy spokeswoman,  said.

The humanitarian situation “continues to be critical, civilian casualties have been tragically high and their suffering horrendous,” Okabe said.

Thousands killed

The UN says nearly 6,500 civilians have been killed in the fighting over the past three months.

The Tigers, listed as a terror group by many Western nations, have been fighting since 1983 for an ethnic Tamil state in the north and east after decades of what they call marginalisation by governments dominated by the Sinhalese majority.

After more than three years of intense fighting, the government appears on the verge of crushing the group.

Riding a wave of popularity from its war success, Sri Lanka’s ruling party appeared the favorite to win Saturday’s council election in the Western province.


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