Sri Lankan jets kill civilians
[TamilNet, Monday, 18 August 1997, 23:59 GMT]
Sri Lankan air force jets bombed a crowded church at Vavunikulam on Friday, killing at least nine civilians, and injuring 15 others. 10 civilians were seriously injured in another attack at Puthuvilankulam two hours later. The Sri Lankan military has routinely attacked Tamil places of worship and other civilian targets, as part of its offensives in the Tamil homelands.
At 9.00am on Saturday, Kfir jet bombers of the Sri Lankan sped over Vavunikulam village in the Vanni and dropped their payloads on the village church, which was providing shelter for hundreds of Tamil refugees. The Kfirs returned at 11.00am to attack Puthuvilankulam village, seriously injuring 10 Tamil civilians, including 3 children.
St James church, Jaffna - 10 people died when it was bombed on 13 November
At 9.00am on Saturday, Kfir jet bombers of the Sri Lankan Air Force sped over Vavunikulam village in the Vanni and dropped their payloads on the village church, which was providing shelter for hundreds of Tamil refugees. The Kfirs returned at 11.00am to attack Puthuvilankulam village, seriously injuring 10 Tamil civilians, including 3 children.
According to Vavunikulam residents, at least 9 people were killed. 6 of the dead (5 women and a child) have been identified. The bodies of the other three people were shredded by the bombs. Resident said they had used spades to gather the pieces.
The SLAF Kfir jets are said to have headed directly for the church, bracketing the compound with their bombs, according to a resident. Vavunikulam has been regularly targeted by the SLAF jets over the past few months. Efforts to clear the blocked irrigation system in the area have been hampered by frequent air strikes, and dozens of residents have died in air strikes.
The Sri Lankans have denied bombing the church, but acknowledged that SLAF planes were engaged in bombing sorties Friday morning in the Vanni area. According to them, "Israeli made Kfir fighter jets bombed identified enemy targets in Vanni causing destruction".
This standard statement has been routinely issued in the past, in response to protests by the Tamil MPs, Sri Lankan civil servants, the Red Cross, Medecins Sans Frontiers, and church leaders all of whom have reported hundred of Tamil civilians being killed in Sri Lankan bombing and shelling in the past few years.
The Sri Lankan government has banned the international press from the Tamil areas for over two years now. The thousands of civilian casualties due to deliberate Sri Lankan bombing and shelling have been covered up by pressurising NGOs active in the area from publicising the attacks.
The destruction of Tamil places of worship has been an integral part of Sri Lankan military operations. Up to 1992, over 1700 Hindu temples were destroyed by Sri Lankan bombing or shelling according to Sri Lanka government figures. No figures have been published since.
On 9 July 1995, Sri Lankan jets dropped several bombs on Navaly Church on the Jaffna peninsula, killing 120 people (65 instantly). Protests by the Red Cross (ICRC) were silenced by the Sri Lankan government which threatened to eject the organisation from the Tamil areas altogether "if they got involved in politics".
In 1990, St. James church in Jaffna city was bombed by the Sri Lankans in retaliation for a Tamil Tiger attack on a major army base. At least 10 worshippers were killed instantly. The Jaffna clergy told Amnesty International that the jets had specifically targeted the church in repeated strikes.
The SLAF routinely targets civilians within the Tamil areas that have not been captured by the Sri Lankan army. Vavunikulam and many other Tamil villages have been repeatedly hit by the fast moving Kfirs and by Mi-24 helicopter gunships.
On 16 March 1996, Mi-24 gunships attacked Nachchikudah village near Mannar. Using rockets, machine guns and napalm, the Sri Lankans killed 16 Tamil residents and seriously injured 64 others. The Sri Lankan government has ignored protests by Tamil MPs, local priests, civil servants. The attack was reported by the Sri Lankans as an attack on a 'terrorist base'.
In September 1995, SLAF bombers buzzed a Tamil school at Nagerkoil. As the children scattered in panic the aircraft dropped anti-personal bombs, scything down scores of them. At least 45 children died, many in intense agony according to aid workers. For many years, the Sri Lankan government has banned all medicine, including pain killers from the Tamil areas.
The deliberate attacks on Tamil civilian concentrations are an integral part of Sri Lanka's military strategy of inducing war-weariness in the Tamil population, in an attempt to curtail support for the Tamil Tigers.