Largest ever mass grave discovered in Mannar, Sri Lanka

The excavations are located in an area inhabited mostly by Tamils, scene of battles during the civil war. The identification of bodies is almost impossible, given the decomposition of the remains and the missing or scattered parts.

Colombo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - At least 230 bodies are being exhumed from a mass grave in Mannar, in the northwest of Sri Lanka. This is the highest number of human remains ever found in the country, marked by a bloody civil war that lasted almost 30 years.

Prof. Raj Somadeva, a forensic archaeologist at the University of Kelaniya (near Colombo) conducting the excavations, it is the "largest ever mass grave". He adds that we do not know the names of the victims, nor how they died. The skeletons are difficult to identify "because the bones are scattered and it is difficult to understand the height of the bodies. Also some bones are missing. It is a total chaos ".

The excavations have continued unabated since last August, when the site was discovered by chance by a construction company while laying the foundations of a new building. In addition to human remains, archaeologists are bringing to light fragments of crockery, pottery, metal objects and jewelry worn by victims. The area, inhabited mostly by Tamils, was occupied by the military during the war and was one of the bloodiest theaters of the battles between Tamil Tiger rebels and the regular army.

This is the second mass grave found on the island. The first, in the area of ​​the Hindu temple of Thiruketheeswaram, had been brought to light in 2014. Groups of activists claim that, after the end of the conflict that has bloodied the country for decades and ended in 2009, they lack the appeal at least 20 thousand people. Many of them disappeared into thin air in the last phases of the war, which caused about 100 thousand deaths.

The investigations on the first mass grave have not led to any results. According to human rights groups atrocities have been committed by both sides - the military and the rebels. The government of former dictator Mahinda Rajapaksa has always denied any responsibility for the victims and missing persons, but a UN report confirms the abuses and war crimes. Under international pressure, last year President Maithripala Sirisena created an independent investigating body, the Office for Missing Persons.