SLMC accuses SL Army of shelling Muttur civilians

[TamilNet, Friday, 04 August 2006, 00:33 GMT]
Sri Lanka’s largest Muslim party Thursday accused Sri Lankan security forces of shelling Muslim civilians in embattled Muttur town, killing dozens of people and wounding scores more. As Sri Lanka’s military blamed the Tamil Tigers, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) leader, Rauf Hakeem told AFP: “the people were killed in attacks carried out by the security forces.”

In the third day of pitched battles in Muttur town between LTTE units and Sri Lanka Army (SLA) troops, artillery shells hit schools where Muslim civilians had sought shelter, killing over twenty people and wounding forty others.

Mr.Rauff Hakim speaking
Mr.Rauff Hakim speaking in Trincomalee
SLMC leader Rauf Hakeem Thursday accused the government of firing the shells that fell on the schools.

“The government must take responsibility for the killing of civilians,” he told AFP.

“Both sides must stop the attacks immediately and go back to the positions they had before the (2002) truce,” he added.

The SLMC also called upon the LTTE and the government to declare mosques, temples, churches and schools as war free zones, the Daily Mirror reported Friday.

Mr. Hakeem said the government and the LTTE had made the 2002 ceasefire agreement a mockery as they were going ahead with their offensives, the paper reported.

Twelve Muslim villagers sheltering in the Al Nuriah Muslim school in Thoppur, southeast of Muttur were killed by an artillery shell Thursday evening. Five people were wounded.

Earlier that day, at least ten Muslim civilians who sought refuge in Arabic College in Muttur town were killed when an artillery shell hit the premises around noon. Forty people were wounded.

The Sri Lankan government accused the LTTE of firing the shells, but the LTTE blamed the SLA.

Whilst the SLA claims to be holding Muttur and its surroundings, Muslim residents told the BBC by telephone Wednesday that hundreds of LTTE fighters had taken control of the town centre and were laying siege to four SLA camps on the town’s corners.

On Thursday, telephone lines to Muttur were no longer working, even as shells struck some of the locations, including schools and places of worship, where thousands of Muttur’s Muslim residents have taken shelter.

Sri Lanka’s Defence Ministry said: “the indiscriminate firing by the Tigers is clear evidence of their vicious plan to hit civilians and then put the blame on the security forces with a view to tarnishing their image in the eyes of the international community.”

But the Tigers say they are in control of Muttur and that Sri Lanka’s military, trying retake the town, is using heavy weapons indiscriminately against it.

On Wednesday, the Daily Mirror reported that Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapakse had cracked down on some media outlets for reporting comments by the LTTE’s spokesmen and local leaders.

President Rajapakse told the heads of two private electronic media organizations that undue publicity had been given to LTTE leaders in their reporting of the fighting which unfolded in the past two weeks.

“The President had said it would show the statements of regional leaders of a terrorist organization were on par with the statements of a sovereign government,” the Daily Mirror reported.

On Friday, Sri Lanka’s state media and much of the private media reported the government’s version of Thursday’s bloody events.

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