Death squads take bloody toll in Sri Lankan frontline town

VAVUNIYA, Sri Lanka, Oct 26, 2006 (AFP) – Vaithilingam Mahenthiran and two of his friends were gunned down on a Saturday afternoon earlier this month. The day before, two other young men were shot to death and dumped in a ditch on the roadside, their hands bound and heads hooded.

Before the weekend was over, three more men would be pulled from their car and killed by death squads that have turned the lonely roads and forests around this frontline town in northern Sri Lanka into no-go zones.

“It might be two or three getting killed each day and it’s unclear who’s carrying out these crimes,” explains Thorfinnur Omarsson, spokesman for the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission — the Nordic peace observers who are called out every time another body turns up in the weeds.

Both the government in Colombo and rebel Tamil Tigers have accused the other side of murdering civilians.

But Omarsson, expressing the frustration felt by many of those trying to keep the island nation from sliding back into all-out war, says “the killing goes both ways … and there are also paramilitaries”.

“It’s always quite unpredictable and tense … it’s happening all of