Sri Lanka mass grave count hits 36

COLOMBO, January 17, 2014 (AFP) – Forensic experts have discovered more bodies in an unmarked mass grave in Sri Lanka’s former war zone, raising the total to 36, an official said Friday. A team led by judicial medical officer Dhananjaya Waidyaratne found four more skeletons Thursday in the first mass grave uncovered since troops defeated Tamil rebels nearly five years ago.

“The bodies have been buried in several layers,” Waidyaratne told the BBC’s Sinhala Service at the northern district of Mannar, where the grave was found.

A local magistrate ordered further digging after road construction workers stumbled on a skeleton while laying a water pipeline on December 21. Ten skeletons were found initially.

“It is difficult to place a time of death or a cause of death without further scientific tests,” he said, adding 36 skeletons had been found in the mass grave.

Women and children were among those buried, he added.

Police have not yet been able to identify the remains.

But the Roman Catholic Bishop of Mannar, Rayappu Joseph, said the victims could be members of the minority ethnic Tamil community in the area, 312 kilometres (195 miles) north of the capital Colo