Sri Lankan government under fire over refugee carnage

Nov 9, 2006 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s government came under international criticism Thursday after killing 65 refugees and wounding hundreds of others in an artillery blitz of the rebel-held east of the island. Nearly 3,300 people have been killed in fighting in the past year despite a 2002 truce in Sri Lanka’s separatist conflict. Nordic monitors said government forces had fired rockets at two school buildings housing a large number of displaced Tamil civilians.

“Our monitors have counted 23 bodies, but there could be a lot more,” a spokeswoman for the Norwegian-led Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) said after Wednesday’s shelling in the eastern district of Batticaloa.

Medical sources in the area said at least 65 civilians were killed and about 300 injured, the worst bloodshed since the government and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) held failed peace talks late last month.

“This is very serious. Government forces fired at unarmed people with the aim of killing them,” Norway’s International Development Minister Erik Solheim, who is also the top peace-broker for Sri Lanka, told Norway’s NRK broadcaster.

The SLMM itself was also caught up in Wednesday’s bombardment, with monitor