The London Times reports that the final weeks of fighting in Sri Lanka’s civil war claimed more than 20,000 civilian lives, mostly at the hands of government forces. A U.N. official tells the paper the actual figure is “Higher. ... Keep going.”
The government kept aid workers and reporters away during a three-week bombardment that ultimately ended the 26-year war.
The Sri Lankan authorities have [...] blamed all civilian casualties on Tamil Tiger rebels concealed among the civilians.
Aerial photographs, official documents, witness accounts and expert testimony tell a different story. With the world’s media and aid organisations kept well away from the fighting, the army launched a fierce barrage that began at the end of April and lasted about three weeks. The offensive ended Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war with the Tamil Tigers, but innocent civilians paid the price.
Confidential United Nations documents acquired by The Times record nearly 7,000 civilian deaths in the no-fire zone up to the end of April. UN sources said that the toll then surged, with an average of 1,000 civilians killed each day until May 19, the day after Velupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of the Tamil Tigers, was killed. That figure concurs with the estimate made to The Times by Father Amalraj, a Roman Catholic priest who fled the no-fire zone on May 16 and is now interned with 200,000 other survivors in Manik Farm refugee camp. It would take the final toll above 20,000. “Higher,” a UN source told The Times. “Keep going.”