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‘Lankan military targeted civilians, bombed UN hub’

world Updated: Apr 25, 2011 00:51 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times

Artillery fire from Sri Lanka Army (SLA) positions targetted civilians inside the `no firing zone’ (NFZ) near the north eastern coast and bombed the United Nations (UN) hub, set up to aid displaced Tamils during the final stages of the civil war, the expert panel report to the UN has claimed.

Hindustan Times has a copy of the "Report of the Secretary General’s panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka", which was submitted to the UN chief Ban Ki-moon’s office, earlier this month, but is yet to be made public.

The government has rejected the report as biased and flawed and asked the UN chief not to publish it, as it could hurt post war reconciliation.

However, the report, already leaked in parts, said "tens of thousands of civilians" were killed in the final stages of the war that ended in May, 2009. In its entirety, the report gives details about the bloody fighting that took place between January and May that year.

The first barrage of shells hit the temporary UN hub within days of the military demarcating a NFZ on January 20, 2009. The report said UN members, including two international staff, set up a temporary centre near Suthanthipuram, near the final theatre of battle. This was after Tamil Tiger rebels didn’t allow a UN convoy to proceed to the safety of a town outside the battle zone because of "the presence of national staff".

"During the day (January 23) shells fired from the government-controlled areas in the south started landing occasionally in the NFZ. In the evening, shells fell on the food distributing centre, killing and wounding a large number of civilians," the report said. It turned out to be just the beginning.

"In the early morning of January 24, hundreds of shells rained down on the NFZ. The UN security officer, a highly experienced military officer and others present discerned that the shelling was coming from the south, from SLA (Sri Lanka army) positions… Heavy shelling continued over night and shells continued to hit the UN hub and the distribution centre, killing numerous civilians," the report said.

"When UN staff emerged from the bunker in the first morning light…mangled bodies and body parts were strewn all around them, including those of many women and children. Remains of babies had been blasted upwards into the trees…" it added