Sri Lanka begins war tally after international pressure

COLOMBO, November 27, 2013 (AFP) – Sri Lanka was to begin compiling a death toll from its ethnic conflict Thursday as it seeks to fend off growing pressure over allegations of mass killings at the end of the war. While Jaffna held its first provincial elections since the war in September, with the main Tamil party winning by a landslide, the vote was seen as having done little to address long-standing demands for greater autonomy. Some 16,000 officials are expected to fan out across the island at the start of a six-month operation to compile a definitive toll from the conflict, which ran for 37 years and was one of the bloodiest in post-colonial Asia.

In a brief statement on President Mahinda Rajapakse’s website on Wednesday, the government said the department of census of statistics would conduct what it called an “island-wide census to assess the loss of human life and damage to property”, adding that the work would begin on November 28.

The announcement came after Rajapakse hosted a Commonwealth summit this month which was overshadowed by allegations of war crimes committed by government troops in the final stages of the conflict in May 2009.

UN bodies and rights groups have said that as many as 4