SL Army Blames LTTE for Large Scale Civilian Casualties
Under all-round fire over large number of civilian deaths during the last phase of the civil war, Sri Lanka today tried to wash its hands off the issue by saying that "ill-trained" LTTE rebels may have caused the large scale civilian casualties.

A military commission of inquiry (COI) instituted by the Sri Lankan Army has concluded that instances of shelling referred to in a report by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, which was set up by the Sri Lankan Government after the war, were not caused by the forces.

The COI report which was presented today blamed the employment of sub-standard artillery guns and incompatible and sub-standard artillery rounds obtained from illegal sources by the then powerful LTTE for civilian casualties.

"From the testimony presented, the COI concluded that the instances of shelling referred to in the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission Report were not caused by the Sri Lanka Army," the report says.

The report contended that the civilian casualties might have occurred due to the acts of LTTE.

"The LTTE were targeting civilians fleeing to the safety of Army held areas and likely routes of escape, dropping of artillery rounds fired by ill-trained LTTE gunners on to civilian concentrations.

"Employment of sub-standard artillery guns and incompatible and sub-standard artillery rounds obtained from illegal sources by the LTTE, forced conscription of civilians including children and old people by LTTE for combat purposes, thus exposing them to danger," it said.

The report comes at a time that the US is planning to table another resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) next month over Sri Lanka's alleged human rights violations and the lack of progress in addressing the ethnic conflict politically.

Departing from its known stand of not participating in vote relating to country-specific resolutions, India had vote against Sri Lanka last year due to pressure from political parties in Tamil Nadu.

Sri Lanka has been under attack from several countries, especially the US, UK and France, over the alleged killings of civilians present in the 'No Fire Zone' during the last phase of the 30-year-old bloody civil war that ended with the death of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam's once-feared chief Velupillai Prabhakaran.

The six-member Court of Inquiry comprising military officers was appointed by the Sri Lankan Army to go into allegations made by UK-based Channel 4 referred to in the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) report.

The report also said that the Army commanders at all times obeyed the 'Zero Civilian Casualty' directive made by Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the the directives from the higher headquarters with regard to 'No Fire Zones'.

The report said the policy was followed even when the LTTE terrorists had fired from NFZs.

"In order to avoid civilian deaths the artillery commanders had added 500 meters to the boundaries of NFZs given by higher headquarters thereby extending the boundaries of NFZs by 500 metres," the report said.

LLRC findings had urged investigations into the large number of civilians killed during the final phase of the war and were the subject of a UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution last year.

The resolution compelled Sri Lanka to expeditiously implement the recommendations as a prerequisite for achieving reconciliation with the Tamil minority.
Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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