Sri Lanka war dead don’t add up

Nov 1, 2007 (AFP) – Judging by Sri Lankan government accounts of Tamil Tiger dead after decades of fighting, there should hardly be any rebels left. Yet the guerrillas keep on fighting, and apparently dying in large numbers — pointing either to an unlimited pool of combatants or a government wish to boost morale by playing up its prowess on the battlefield.

Analysts suspect it is more a case of the latter.

“There is a huge propaganda war going on to show that more people are being killed,” said defence analyst Namal Perera.

“The new battlefield is the media.”

Retired army colonel Susantha Seneviratne agreed there was “an exaggeration of Tiger casualties,” after a week in which the government has reported around a dozen dead each day.

“This is not unique to Sri Lanka. Almost every army in the world does it,” he said. “It is to help maintain morale.”

There is no independent verification of casualties and journalists are not allowed to travel to the rebel mini-state in the north or the frontline, but experts and analysts agree the government figures do not add up.

Sri Lanka’s chief military spokesman, Brigadier Uday