/ 9 April 2009

Rebel website claims Sri Lanka army killed 129 civilians

Heavy shelling by the Sri Lankan army of a designated safe area has left 129 civilians dead and 282 wounded, the pro-Tamil Tiger website Tamilnet.com said on Thursday.

The website said government forces pounded the area on the northeast coast throughout on Wednesday, hitting sites including a child nutrition centre. It said the attack was the single ”most cruel carnage” by the army in months of fighting.

Sri Lanka’s military denied the allegation.

”These are fabrications by the LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] to get international attention and mount pressure to have a ceasefire that will help the Tiger leadership to escape the army,” military spokesperson Udaya Nanayakkara said.

The army also issued a statement denying an earlier Tamilnet report that ”chemical weapons” were being used against ethnic rebels defending the village of Puthukkudiriruppu over the weekend.

”Pro-Tiger mouthpieces worldwide, unable to digest the humiliating defeat in the hands of security forces, have been … trying to tarnish the Sri Lanka army image,” the army said.

”The Sri Lanka army categorically denies LTTE’s baseless allegations and strongly affirms that the army, as a professional military unit, has no need whatsoever to use such weapons when they were so close to the last leg of the war,” the statement said.

The Sri Lankan government severely restricts access to the war-torn north, making independent verification of the rival claims impossible.

Authorities have in the past denied hitting civilians, and in turn accuse the LTTE of holding tens of thousands of Tamils to use as human shields.

The United Nations says both sides in the long-running ethnic conflict may be guilty of war crimes. — Sapa-AFP