Muslims want STF out of Pottuvil
[TamilNet, Monday, 18 September 2006, 15:03 GMT]
Blaming the elite Special Task Force (STF) for the killings of 10 young Muslim men, the Muslim community in Pottuvil is demanding the unit be transferred out, the BBC reported. Earlier angry protestors stoned STF and police vehicles, rejecting Sri Lankan government accusations the Tamil Tigers were responsible for the killings near the Yala game reserve. Sri Lanka's police chief, Inspector-General Chandra Fernando is now in the eastern Amparai district for talks with senior Muslim politicians, the BBC also reported.
The BBC's correspondent Dumeetha Luthra in Amparai district reported that locals say there has been friction between the Muslim community and the Sri Lankan security forces.
She found that many in the town accuse the STF of the killings, and now want the local police unit transferred immediately, along with a full investigation.
"Special Task Force (STF) troops killed these people," Muslim M.S. Mohedeen, told Reuters earlier as around 2,000 people, including women and children, gathered around the Periya Pallivasal mosque in the eastern town of Pottuvil where the bodies were laid out and incense burned to mask the stench of death.
"We don't blame anyone else," he added. "The LTTE can't come into this area. It is completely controlled by the STF. Without the STF's knowledge, no one can come into this area."
AFP also quoted local residents as telling reporters that the police commandos were at loggerheads with locals and holding the security forces responsible.
Soon after the massacre, the Sri Lankan Defence Ministry blamed the LTTE, saying: “the Tiger terrorists have massacred 11 Muslim civilians who had gone to repair an anicut.”
The LTTE denied the accusation and condemned the massacre.
"The LTTE notes that this is a Sri Lankan government controlled area and a Sri Lankan military camp is stationed near the location of the massacre," the LTTE said in a statement on its Peace Secretariat website.
"The Sri Lankan military is adopting its long tradition of blaming the LTTE for the atrocities it commits," the statement added, pointing to the massacre of 17 aid workers in August which the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) blamed on Sri Lankan troops.
In the face of public anger over the massacres, Inspector-General Fernando said the friction with the locals was over police cracking down on illegal logging in neighbouring forests.
"It is too early to point a finger," AFP quoted Fernando as telling the residents.