Sri Lanka offers probe into massacre of French aid workers

Aug 7, 2006 (AFP) – Sri Lanka will order a “clean and independent” investigation into the reported killing of 15 workers of a French charity during fighting in the northeast, the human rights minister told AFP Monday. The government will grant “very high priority” to probe charges that 11 men and four women, all locals employed by the French group Action Against Hunger, were gunned down in the town of Muttur, Mahinda Samarasinghe said.

“We can’t come to conclusions right now but if the story is correct, it will be a very high priority investigation,” the minister said. “I can assure a clean and an independent investigation.”

Paris-based Action Against Hunger (ACF) said the 15 employees, all Sri Lankans, had been shot over the weekend in Muttur, where they helped survivors of the December 2004 tsunami as well as those affected by the violence in the country.

The minister said he was working with the International Committee of the Red Cross to get access to Muttur, where heavy fighting between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels has killed dozens of civilians.

“I am in contact with the defence authorities to see that the ICRC is able to have access to the area,” Samarasinghe said. “I am relying on th