Sri Lankan bodies in mass graves hard to identify: hospital

Jan 26, 2008 (AFP) – The bullet-riddled bodies of 16 men found dumped in shallow graves in a government-controlled area in Sri Lanka were hard to identify because they were badly decomposed, a hospital official said. A separate government probe found 430 civilians had been killed during a five-month period up to February 2007, though it was not broken down into ethnicity. Since then, no official count has been given.

The victims of what appeared to be execution-style killings were found Thursday evening by villagers in the Anuradhapura district 206 kilometres (130 miles) north of the capital Colombo.

The men had apparently been blindfolded, bound and shot, and were buried in two adjoining graves, one at least two weeks old, the other one week old, the official said.

The hospital completed autopsies on eight of the bodies on Saturday and hopes to finish the rest on Sunday.

The victims were wearing civilian clothes and appeared to be aged between 25 and 40, officials said, adding that no one had come forward to claim any of them.

The hospital declined, however, to reveal sensitive details as to whether the victims were ethnic Sinhalese or Tamils.

Sri Lanka’s defence ministry earlier blamed