Sri Lanka marks 25 years since deadly riots

July 24, 2008 (AFP) – Sri Lanka will on Friday mark a quarter of a century since the country’s worst ethnic riots claimed scores of lives, but 25 years on there is little prospect of peace on the island. In July 1983, the country — where ongoing fighting in a civil war between Tamil rebels and the government continues to simmer — experienced a nationwide wave of deadly attacks, now known as “Black July.”

Mobs attacked a Tamil train passenger and burnt him alive at Colombo’s busiest railway station, while hundreds of others outside the capital were lynched or hacked to death.

Officials say the number of Tamils massacred was between 400 and 600, but some Tamil groups say as many as 6,000 were killed.

The week of violence began after separatist Tamil Tiger guerrillas carried out their most successful attack to date by killing 13 government soldiers in the northern peninsula of Jaffna.

The government initially tried to hold a mass burial for the 13 soldiers at a cemetery in Colombo, but relatives and others demanded individual funerals, sparking clashes with police.

The incidents resulted in widespread violence across the island and marked a watershed in Sri Lanka’s conflict, which