Mass grave at Killinochchi?

Place: Killinochchi | Courtesy: LacNet
| Date: 20000818

By: Frederica Jansz in Colombo

Civilians in the Vanni district at Killinochchi claim to have found over 45 bodies within the precincts of the former army camp at Killinochchi. A large number of the bodies they say have been found in pits within the forward defence localities of the armed forces camp. The army camp at Killinochchi fell to the LTTE in September 1998.

A grave holding two more bodies was discovered Wednesday August 16, by residents in the Killinochchi district. The two skeletons were found dressed in pyjamas and a sarong. One skeleton wore a blue shirt while his hands had been tied with a nylon rope. Civilians displaced by the war and who are now returning to their homes in the Vanni district at Killinochchi claim to have found the mass graves in and around this area. It is alleged that since fresh hostilities broke out between Lankan security forces and the LTTE this year, at least another 186 persons have gone missing in the northern peninsula.

Since the fall of the Killinochchi army camp residents claim that a large number of civilians had gone missing when the army camp was in existence. The Killinochchi army camp was not a designed camp, which means it concentrated on forward defence localities outside the forward defence lines. The forward defence localities were areas in which the army patrolled ahead of defence lines. This strategy was practised by the armed forces camp at Killinochchi in order to prevent the enemy from dominating areas around the camp. Troops were sent ahead of forward defence lines into these localities to ambush possible LTTE parties and to ensure that the LTTE did not build up in the area ahead of the armed forces camp.

In these forward defence localities the army frequently lay in ambush. Sources in the area say that large numbers of civilians who were displaced due to ongoing fighting however continued to visit these areas. This was due to the fact that many of their households and farms lay in the forward localities used by Army patrols. In fact, in 1997, Rev. Arulbalen a catholic priest was caught and later found dead after attempting to visit a farm that was run by the church in this area. Due to the massive outcry that followed the murder of the priest the armed forces thereafter handed over to the Jaffna police some of the civilians taken in for interrogation. However the number of civilians handed over to the Jaffna police were few and far between. Residents of the area maintain that large numbers of their neighbours continued to simply vanish never to be seen alive thereafter.

The civilians who disappeared were mostly people of upcountry Tamil origin who had settled at Killinochchi after 1977. Many of them are believed to have been caught when they went to pluck coconuts and oversee other functions of their farms and homes. Apart from sources at Killinochchi, humanitarian organizations working in the Vanni district deny any knowledge of the graves.

Fri Aug 18 03:59:28 EDT 2000

Courtesy : LacNet