Sri Lanka defends military action against rebels
Last Updated: Wednesday, August 18, 2010, 00:10
Colombo: A top Sri Lankan official on Tuesday defended government forces against allegations of mass rights abuses during the war against the Tamil Tigers, and accused critics of confusing rebel casualties as civilians.

Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa told a government-appointed war commission that at least 6,000 troops were killed in the last years of the conflict and that the ethnic Tamil rebels likely suffered even heavier casualties because of the government's superior fire power.

"Some people talk about the civilian casualties. It's very difficult to identify the civilian casualties. If the military had suffered 6,000 killed-in-action and nearly 30,000 wounded, then you can imagine" the LTTE casualties, he said, referring to the rebels' formal title, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

"But nobody talks of the LTTE's dead and injured. They put all these figures also into the civilian casualty figure."

Sri Lanka's 25-year civil war ended in May 2009 after the government forces crushed the Tamil Tigers who had been fighting for an independent state for a quarter-century, after decades of discrimination of Tamils by the ethnic Sinhalese majority.

The United Nations says at least 7,000 civilians were killed in the last five months of the conflict. In all, it says between 80,000 and 100,000 people were killed during the war.

The International Crisis Group think reported earlier this year at least 30,000 civilians could have died in the last years of the war. It also said civilians in the war zone were deprived of food and medical care.

Rights groups have called for an international probe into rights abuses by both sides -- including allegations government troops shelled a "no-fire zone" created by itself in the northeast of the island after hundreds of thousands of minority Tamils sought refuge there in the last stages of the fighting.


First Published: Wednesday, August 18, 2010, 00:10

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