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Muslims protest in east Lanka post civilian massacre

Mutilated bodies of 11 Muslim labourers were found hacked in a jungle area near Pottuvil town, 250 kms east of capital Colombo.

india Updated: Sep 19, 2006 13:23 IST
Associated Press
Associated Press

Sri Lanka's main Muslim political party on Tuesday demanded an impartial investigation into the killing of 11 civilians, as residents in parts of the east shut shops and offices to protest the killings that some blame on the government.

Mutilated bodies of 11 Muslim labourers were found hacked in a jungle area near Pottuvil town 250 kms east of Colombo on Monday.

The men were repairing an irrigation system when they were attacked, said chief military spokesman Brig Prasad Samarasinghe.

The residents accuse the government's special police unit for the killings while the government blames separatist Tamil Tiger rebels.

"The people have called for a peaceful protest demanding an impartial inquiry," said Rauff Hakeem, a lawmaker for Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, the main political party that represents the country's second-largest minority group.

Hakeem said the protesters have also demanded the chief of the police unit called the Special Task Force be transferred claiming he could be an obstacle to any fair investigation.

He said though his party does not accuse the STF directly for killing civilians, he had asked the government to look at all possibilities and not to adopt a "tunnel vision" of squarely blaming the Tigers.

Muslims are Sri Lanka's second-largest minority after ethnic Tamils, who are mostly Hindu, and generally oppose the Tamil Tiger rebels, who are fighting to carve out a separate homeland for minority Tamils.

The guerrillas have accused Muslims of supporting the government. The rebels also oppose Muslims cultivating land in areas they consider Tamil territory.

First Published: Sep 19, 2006 13:00 IST