Witness priest missing after Sri Lanka church deaths: group

Aug 23, 2006 (AFP) – A Catholic priest has gone missing after witnessing the deaths of 15 people sheltering in a church hit by shelling during fighting in northern Sri Lanka, a Tamil rights group said Wednesday. Parish priest Thiruchelvam Nihal Jim Brown, 34, helped the injured after the church was hit 10 days ago on an island off the west coast of the disputed Jaffna peninsula and was demanding a judicial inquiry.

Both separatist Tamil Tiger rebels and the military blamed each other for the shelling.

The rights group, the North East Secretariat on Human Rights, said it was worried about the fate of Brown and a companion, who were last seen Sunday.

“It is feared … that Father Jim Brown and his companion may have been made to disappear by interested parties” to prevent the truth about the incident emerging, the group said in a statement.

“This mysterious disappearance has caused serious alarm among the clergy and the parishioners,” the group added.

The statement said Brown was last seen after passing through an army checkpoint on his way to deliver Sunday Mass during the relaxation of a curfew by government forces, which hold most of the Jaffna peninsula.

He was appointed a month earlie