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SL Air Force didn't hit civilians: Official

The chief of the truce monitors said only military targets were hit by Lankan forces, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Apr 29, 2006 13:49 IST

The chief of the truce monitors in Sri Lanka, Maj Gen Ulf Henricsson, has said that the Sri Lankan Armed Forces had hit only military targets and offices of the LTTE when they bombarded Sampur in Eastern Sri Lanka on April 25 and 26.

Briefing the Secretary General of the Sri Lankan government's Peace Secretariat Dr Palitha Kohona on Friday after a visit to Sampur, Gen Henricsson said that some collateral damage to civilian property had taken place as some of the LTTE offices were situated in populated areas.

Such collateral damage was not significant, he added. In his estimation approximately 10-12 people might have died.

He did not believe that 16 people had died as has been claimed in some reports.

On being asked about reports relating to a mass exodus of people from the Sampur area, Gen Henricsson said that these were grossly exaggerated.

"It is normal for people to move away from military targets at times of conflict. Since the bombing ceased, people were slowly returning to their homes and villages," he said.

These observations of the head of the truce monitors bore out the fact that the Sri Lankan security forces had been careful about avoiding civilian casualties, a statement from the government Peace Secretariat said.

The government security forces had not launched attacks "deliberately and entirely directed at civilian settlements" as claimed by the LTTE (LTTE press statement, 26 April 2006).

"There has also been no mass displacement of persons from these areas as claimed by the LTTE," the statement said.

"The LTTE had claimed that as a result of the government's action more than 40,000 people have been displaced and are languishing as refugees.'

"But the Government Agent of Trincomalee has since confirmed that the total population of Sampur is approximately 16,600 and that only a small fraction of the population left their homes during the military strikes."

"This limited operation by the security forces which has now come to an end, was in response to a sustained campaign of LTTE terror attacks and specific attacks against the Sri Lanka Navy in the Trincomalee area.

It was carried out as a deterrent to neutralise the threat posed by the LTTE to the harbour and key naval installations in Trincomalee," the statement said.

First Published: Apr 29, 2006 13:49 IST