Wounded Madhu refugees allege SLA fired
[TamilNet, Sunday, 21 November 1999, 10:44 GMT]
Wounded refugees who were brought to the Vavuniya hospital speaking on condition of anonymity said this morning that an armoured column of the SLA, retreating from a fierce counter attack by the Liberation Tigers had opened fire on the Madhu shrine where they had been huddled together last night around 10 p.m. killing and wounding scores.
A wounded refugee who was brought to the Vavuniya hospital said that he and his family was wounded when a tank in the SLA's armoured column had turned and fired its gun on the chapel.
He said that there were dead and wounded people and children strewn everywhere at the spot following this attack.
Meanwhile the Bishop of Mannar and the Bishop's Secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka has issued a statement on the Madhu Shrine.
The text of the statement signed by the Bishop of Mannar, Rev. Dr.Rayappu Joseph follows:
"The Sacred Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu came under artillery attack on 20.11.1999 at about 10 p.m. as the SLA soldiers numbering around 300 were in the shrine compound.
"There were over 3500 civilians who had come there for refuge and all of them were sleeping in the main shrine and the adjoining Sacred Heart Chapel.
"31 of the civilians sleeping in the Sacred Heart Chapel were killed on the spot and 13 of them were children. 64 were severely wounded and were taken to the hospital of Vavuniya where 04 more succumbed to injuries.
"Besides the destruction of the Sacred Heart Chapel, a section of the main shrine has suffered extensive damage. The whole Church of Mannar and of Sri Lanka are so sad that this sacred place so dear to the Catholics and to all citizens of this country had come under such a desecration never heard of in its 450 years of history.
"Along with the Secretary General of the Catholics Bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka Most Reverend Malcom Ranjit, I appeal to both the State armed forces and the LTTE to immediately withdraw from the Sacred Area of the Shrine Madhu which is known as Madhu Church Reservation demarcated by sign boards on all four sides of the Shrine and strictly refrain from using Madhu for any strategic or political advantage.
"I also appeal to the Sri Lankan Government and LTTE. to leave Madhu completely free for the pilgrims to visit the Shrine without any restrictions for their spiritual purposes," states Most Rev.Dr.Rayappu Joseph, Bishop of Mannar in his statement.