Investigators exhume slain Sri Lankan aid workers as killing continues in north
Sat September 16, 2006 07:21 EDT .
Associated Press Writer
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ Australian investigators probing the execution-style killing of 17 aid workers exhumed two bodies from a cemetery in eastern Sri Lanka on Saturday, officials said, as clashes between ethnic Tamil rebels and security forces killed a soldier and an insurgent in the troubled north.
Police Saturday also said that seven civilians have been shot dead over the past two days in northern Jaffna, long a flashpoint for violence in the Sinhalese-dominated state's near-two decade war with separatists Tamil Tiger rebels.
The 17 employees with international relief agency Action Against Hunger _ all but one of them ethnic Tamils _ were shot at close range in August amid a fierce battle between the government and rebels for the eastern town of Muttur.
International monitors of Sri Lanka's disintegrating cease-fire have implicated government troops in the massacre _ a claim strongly denied by authorities. The United Nations and aid agencies have pressed for an impartial investigation.
The remains of the aid workers would be transported to the capital, Colombo, where they would be re-examined as part of an Australian-led, independent inquiry, said police spokesman Nihal Samarakoon in the eastern port town of Trincomalee.
Other bodies may be exhumed once their families give their consent, Samarakoon said.
Trincomalee and the Jaffna peninsula have seen some of the fiercest fighting since the two sides signed a Norway-brokered cease-fire in 2002.
Major hostilities have apparently eased in recent days, although the cease-fire has unraveled amid fighting that has killed more than 400 government forces since July.
One army soldier was killed and two others wounded when the insurgents attacked a sentry post overnight with hand grenades and small arms overnight, the Defense Ministry's Media Center for National Security said in a statement Saturday.
The military also distributed photos of an alleged dead Tamil Tiger rebel, said to have been killed in a counterattack by the army Saturday afternoon.
Rebel officials weren't immediately available for comment on the claims.
In northern Jaffna, at least seven civilians were killed Thursday and Friday, police said Saturday. They did not want to be named because they feared they too could be targeted.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have been fighting since 1983 for a separate homeland for the country's 3.2 million ethnic Tamil minority in the northeast, citing decades of discrimination by the Sinhalese majority.
The conflict cost the lives of about 65,000 people before cease-fire.
Meanwhile, a severe fuel shortage took hold in the battle-torn north, causing power cuts for most of the day, halting public transportation and forcing people to swap motorcycles for bicycles, residents said.
Discuss this story
Published: Sat Sep 16 09:46:53 EDT 2006