COLOMBO, March 8, 2014 (AFP) – Sri Lankan authorities halted excavations after recovering 81 skeletal remains from an unmarked mass grave atop an old burial ground in the island’s former war zone, an official said Saturday. Judicial medical officer Dhananjaya Waidyaratne said digging at a depth of about two metres (6.7 feet) led to the old cemetery and the authorities did not want to go deeper and disturbed those who had been properly buried.
“We have gathered skeletal remains from upper layers and grouped them into 81 boxes,” Waidyaratne told AFP. “These remains were in a mass grave buried in a haphazard way compared to the properly laid out graves we found at a depth of two metres.”
He said forensic tests were being done in respect of the 81 groups of skeletal remains to establish the cause and time of death.
“It is quite possible that these people were buried over the old cemetery and we need further investigations,” Waidyaratne. “This process is going to take a lot of time in the laboratory.”
The mass grave is the first uncovered in the former northern war zone since troops defeated Tamil rebels nearly five years ago following a decades-long conflict for a separate homeland for ethnic minority Tamils.