Nachchikkuda Massacre: 17 civilians killed

Place: Nachchikkuda | Courtesy: AP
| Date: 19960316


COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) Sri Lankan helicopters fired on a group of Tamil refugees, killing 16 civilians, Tamil rebels said today. The army put the number of dead at 30, and said they were all rebels.

The military initially denied the attack, but reversed itself late today, saying the gunships assaulted a rebel base at Nachchikuda, 160 miles north of Colombo, on Sunday. It said 30 Tamil guerrillas died and many were wounded.

However, Tamil rebels said 16 civilians died in the attack and 60 were wounded. They said the attack targeted a refugee camp the guerrillas control at Nachchikuda.

A report in the Tamil-language Veerakesari newspaper quoted travelers as saying the weekend attack killed eight civilians.
It is impossible to confirm reports from the war-torn north, which has no telephone lines. The government has prohibited visits by journalists for a year.

Tamil guerrillas have been fighting for a homeland in northern and eastern Sri Lanka since 1983, claiming the Sinhalese majority discriminates against the Tamil minority. More than 40,000 people have been killed.

The Government officers issued the names of those who died in the Helicopter attack. Almost all of them were people displaced from the coastal areas of Jaffna who were temporarily living in Nachchikuda and were engaged in fishing. The affected people had earlier fled Jaffna when their homes came under military attack during the time the Sri Lankan armed forces launched a military offensive to capture Jaffna from October 1995 to December 1995. Particulars of the 16 killed, released by the Government officers are :

Name GenderAgeOriginally From
Julian DelinBaby Boy 6 Month Gurunagar
Kanthasamy SenthilkumarChild 09 Koddady
Kanagasingam TharsiniChild 10Anaikoddai
Anton Mary AmaliniChild 12 Maniyan Thoddam
Anton JegadeepaChild 12 Navanthurai
Antonipillai LawrencestaynChild 15 Anaikoddai
Zavier ConsalChild 15 Navanthurai
Mahendiran Yalini Girl 18 Navanthurai
Ponnambalam SelvarasaBoy 18Maniyan Thoddam
Soosaipillai AmalotpararaniGirl 21 Mathagal
Victor Lucia Girl 23Gurunagar
Mariathas Edlisiar Male 30Gurunagar
Alphons Packianathan Male48 Mathagal
Zavier Gnanamani Female52Gurunagar
Velan Arumugan Male60 Nachchikudda
Thavasi Velayi Female68 Koddady

12 year old girl describes the tragic death of a 2 year old baby.

Sathiaverni a 12 year old girl from Aruhuveli described the tragic death of a 2 year old baby who was killed by an artillery shell when the Sri Lankan armed forces launched a shell attack on Thenmaratchi and Vadamaratchi on 16-03-1996. She said when the shells fell on our compound, we ran further away and laid down on the ground to take cover. I spotted my aunt's daughter Kalpana - a 2 year old baby standing away from us unaware of the terrific danger she was in. I got up and started running towards her desperately to grab her to safety when a shell fell very close to her and exploded. When the smoke cleared we looked for her and found that she was dead. I was trembling. My hand was cut by a shrapnel from another shell that fell close by.


The following letter was writtwn to the Presedent of Sri Lanka, Chandrika Kumarathinge and appeared in Sri Lankan Sunday Times on 14. April 1996. By Rev.Dr.S.J.Emmanuel, Vicar General for Jaffna.

An open letter to President

Seventeen innocent civilians, mostly children and aged, killed on the spot. Sixty seriously wounded and many houses damaged by fire in the early hours of Saturday morning of March 16. This was the planned retaliatory attach of the SriLankan Air Force on a sleeping village. For the third time in recent months, your Armed Forces have attacked this coastal village of Naachchikudah merely under a non-confirmed suspicion that some Sea Tigers were operating from that coast and without the least regard for the mass of poor refugees there.

They executed this disaster with their two newly-acquired Ml 24 helicopters flying over Mulankavil around 4.50 am and firing rockets (sideways ) into the fishing village Naachchikudah. This least known village, lying 50 km west of Killinochchi became known mostly after the historic exodus of poor fishing families from Passayoor, Gurunagar, Navanthurai, Navali and Mathagal of the Jaffna district on October 30. They sought refuge in a coastal village so as to continue their survival with fishing - the one and only profession they know for their lively hood. This massacre of the innocents, as we have come to experience, within a few hours of the incident will most probably be 'explained away' by the Sri Lankan Forces in their now well known characteristic fashion. Well, that has been done all along in the case of a long series of massacres during the last forty years! None of these have been in any way compensated - neither houses built nor funeral expenses paid nor even apologies extended. Yet acknowledging you as Head of a Government proclaiming to seek a peaceful solution to the ethnic issue and as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces sent to liberate the Tamil people from the Tigers. I think it is still our duty to place before you the glaring facts of the incident and ask a pertinent question from you.

On Friday 15.3.1996, it was reported that the Sri Lankan Navy had an encounter with some Sea Tigers off the Pallimunai (Mannar) sea, and while chasing the Tigers, the Navy had hit a sea-mine on the way and had lost eight of their personnel in the blast. No sane person will find fault if the Navy had chased the Tigers and at attacked them with all their might. But what did they do? They resorted hours later to one of the worst and cowardly acts of firing rockets on a sleeping village of refugees! We can understand civilians getting caught in an exchange of fire between fighting forces, but not a retaliation of this nature.

The Tamil parties in Colombo might ask you for a commission of inquiry (not dare for any compensation) and the government, which appears to solve problems by just appointing commission after commission, might readily appoint just a one man commission, if possible of a soldier,

But we are not asking for any such thing, but plead with you for a convincing reply for the following questions:

  • How is your Government going to bring to an end this spiral of violence which has been started many years ago by the previous governments ?

  • How are you justifying such cowardly retaliation of the Forces as part of your attempts for Peace?

    Rev Dr. S. J. Emmanuel.
    Vicar General. Jaffna.