01/02/2007, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Church slams air raid against civilians in village

The air force operation destroys a settlement made up largely of internally displaced people, killing 14 people, including six children. The bishop of Mannar says there was no rebel base in the area. From Jaffna, the local bishop in his New Year message calls for greater involvement of the international community quoting from the Pope’s Christmas address.

Mannar (AsiaNews) – The Sri Lankan Catholic Church has slammed the latest bombing raid by the country’s air force that left 14 people dead, including children, in the village Padahuthurai, in the northern part of the island nation.

After visiting the place of the attack, the bishop of Mannar, Mgr Joseph Rayappu, said that the military operation wiped out the settlement that was largely occupied by internally displaced people. 

According to the bishop, who spoke to local media, there was no Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam base in the area.

Among the 14 people killed, six were children under the age of 8. And at least 35 people were wounded, including many children.

Most of 236 residents in the attacked village were civilians who had fled Navanthurai and Jaffna’s coastal area.

Northern and eastern Sri Lanka are experiencing a renewed wave of violence in the more than 20-year-old civil war between the army and Tamil rebels. A cease-fire had given rise to hopes that the conflict might be at an end.

Mgr Thomas Soundaranayagam, bishop of Jaffna, said that the inter-ethnic conflict could find a positive outcome if there was greater involvement of the international community.

In his New Year message, the prelate said: “This is the only New Year request I am placing in front of the international community. When war clouds gather over Tamil areas, starvation threatens to engulf the Tamil people, the spectre of infectious diseases as a shortage in medicines looms on the horizon, and fear and anxiety grips the Tamil people as they live day-to-day.”

Bishop Soundaranayagam urged people to pray for peace echoing the Pope’s Christmas words: “I pray to God that in Sri Lanka the parties in conflict will heed the desire of the people for a future of brotherhood and solidarity”.

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