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Truce Monitors Investigate Recent Killings of 13 Tamils in Sri Lanka

By Somini Sengupta


In the worsening conflict in Sri Lanka, truce monitors said Monday they were investigating the killings of 13 Tamils in the northern Jaffna Peninsula over the weekend. Tamil rebels accused the Sri Lankan navy of “slaughter.” The government blamed the rebels.

“We can’t say who’s clearly responsible for the killings, as there are still many questions on who may have been behind it,” said Helen Olafsdottir, spokeswoman for the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission. Two children, including an infant, were among those shot dead on Saturday in Kyts, an islet controlled by the Sri Lankan navy.

The latest accusations follow the presentation to the government by the monitors, led by the Nordic countries, of a dossier of seven earlier cases in which security forces may have been involved in what the mission called extrajudicial killings.

The government has not responded publicly. But in a statement last week, its chief negotiator in stalled cease-fire talks, Nimal Siripala de Silva, said it “condemns all forms of reprisal attacks against innocent civilians.”

The monitoring mission’s dossier revives the chilling specter of Sri Lanka’s past. By the late 1980s, during the peak years of its 20-year conflict over the grievances of the Tamil ethnic minority against a government long dominated by the majority Sinhalese, Sri Lanka had become infamous for government-backed death squads, disappearances and unsolved killings.

Reports of disappearances and unsolved killings greatly diminished after a cease-fire was signed by the government and the main rebel group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, in February 2002. But in recent months, with near daily clashes between the military and the rebels and a swift escalation of distrust between the warring parties, little seems to be left of the cease-fire.