COLOMBO, February 25, 2014 (AFP) – Forensic experts have found more bodies in an unmarked mass grave in Sri Lanka’s northern former war zone, taking the total number to 80, an official said Tuesday. Judicial medical officer Dhananjaya Waidyaratne said excavations resumed on Monday after a short break at the grave site discovered by construction workers in December.
The grave is the first uncovered in the former war zone since troops defeated Tamil rebels nearly five years ago following a decades-long conflict for a separate homeland for ethnic minority Tamils.
“We found more skeletons yesterday and the figure now stands at 80,” Waidyaratne told reporters, up from a previously released figure of 36. “We have submitted the evidence to (the) courts,” he added.
He said further tests were needed to establish how and when the people died but officials have previously said that women and children were among those buried.
The government sought to head off concerns that Sri Lankan soldiers could have been involved in the grave, saying the Mannar area had long been a Tamil rebel stronghold.
“It has been revealed that the area had been occupied by the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam)