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    » 06/13/2006, 00.00

    SRI LANKA

    People terrorized after massacre of Tamil family

    Danielle Vella

    Thousands of people attended the funeral of an entire family killed near Vankalai. The army and the rebels have exchanged mutual accusations. The parish priest: People are killed indiscriminately here, we are terrified. And the situation does not look hopeful.

    Vankalai (AsiaNews) –The massacre of another Tamil family in northern Sri Lanka last week has served to intensify the mortal fear of civilians in the island's war zones. Martin Moorthy, a carpenter, his wife, Chitra, and their two children – a girl and boy aged nine and six respectively – were hacked to death in the village of Thomaspuri near Vankalai, Mannar district, on the night of Thursday 8 June. The Sri Lankan army and Tamil Tiger rebels have blamed each other for the killings.

    Contacted by AsiaNews, the parish priest of Vankalai, Fr Victor Avithappar, said civilians were scared, insecure and indignant about the latest, particularly brutal killings. "People are panicked and afraid, they don't feel safe. They want peace, to live free from fear," he said. "Everyone is boiling inside but people fear to actually show it because someone will take revenge later."

    Thousands of people flocked to the family's funeral mass, which was presided over by the Bishop of Mannar district, Rayappu Joseph, at St Anne's parish church in Vankalai on Saturday.

    The victims used to be refugees in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Chitra grew up there and is fondly remembered by workers of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) as a dedicated teacher in one of their school projects in the camps. The family returned to Sri Lanka after the 2002 cease-fire because they felt it was safe to do so. 

    This was not the first family to be massacred wholesale in Sri Lanka's civil war: only last month, a family from Kayts islet, off Jaffna, also in the north, met the same fate. Civilians are killed every single day in the north and east, and no one is spared, not even children, as the murders take on an increasingly gruesome and ruthless nature.

    It is not clear who perpetrated the killings in Vankalai: many residents blame the army, reportedly saying some soldiers were in the area on the day of the killings, asking for information from the locals.

    However, Fr Avithappar said "we cannot tell who did this", because there were no eye witnesses to the killings, which took place at the dead of night. He added: "But this area is under army control. The soldiers are all over, their sentry points are everywhere."

    Since the beginning of June, hundreds of people from villages near Vankalai have been spending the night in St Anne's parish church. They are afraid to stay at home since the army shelled the area from its Vankalai camp on 31 May, following the death of a soldier in a claymore mine attack.

    Now civilians are more petrified than ever, and their fear is fuelled by the political failure or refusal to talk peace, clearly revealed when talks between the government and the rebel Liberations Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) foundered in Oslo last week.

    "If things get worse, we will really be in a terrible situation. I plead to those responsible for this violence to please stop as soon as possible," said Fr Avithappar.

    But is anyone who matters listening to him? It appears not: the army and LTTE are not taking concrete steps to ensure security. Instead, their response to civilian killings has been largely to use the atrocities to throw mud at each other and to further entrench their own positions.

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    See also

    11/08/2006 SRI LANKA
    NGO: Open humanitarian corridors in north-east

    The Jesuit Refugee Service has joined its voice to other aid agencies that are being prevented by the Sinhalese government from reaching thousands of displaced people who have fled the conflict.



    27/01/2009 SRI LANKA
    Massacre of civilians, bishop of Jaffna calls for extension of buffer zone
    Hundreds of civilians dead, killed even in the "safety zone." The army and the Tamil Tigers are trading accusations. Bishop of Jaffna: the buffer zone must be extended immediately and respected, to save many lives.

    19/02/2009 SRI LANKA
    Church of Colombo collects food and medicine for refugees from north
    An appeal from the archbishop, to "express our concern and solidarity with victims of the war on both sides at this juncture in a more concrete manner." The project is coordinated by Caritas-Seth Sarana. The products collected will be sent to refugee centers in the area of Vavuniya and Kilinochchi managed by the local dioceses.

    10/02/2009 SRI LANKA
    Religious personnel under Wanni bombings
    Hundreds of thousands of people are trapped in the war zone. There is a lack of food in Wanni: over the past 10 days, only 8 aid trucks have been sent for 250,000 people. No one can enter the refugee centers managed by the government.

    05/02/2009 SRI LANKA
    Apostolic nuncio: priests will stay with people in conflict zone
    22 priests and 27 sisters live in the northern districts where the war is being fought. The defense ministry is asking that they be evacuated, and is not guaranteeing the safety of civilians who remain in the area of fighting. The government rejects the proposal of the United States and Great Britain to negotiate the surrender of the Tamil Tigers.



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