3RD LEAD (adds Reuters witness quotes)

Sri Lanka parades fallen Tigers’ naked bodies

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 23 October 2007, 16:10 GMT]
Sri Lanka armed forces Tuesday paraded the naked bodies of Tamil Tiger commandos killed during their devastating attack on a key northern airbase in the early hours Monday, agency reports said. Amid media coverage of the grisly scenes, the military Wednesday claimed the LTTE troopers’ bodies were stripped in order to search for “hidden suicide devices.” The Army claimed the bodies were wrapped in polythene, but photographs of the subsequent procession show the naked bodies being exposed for the public to view. The military also said Wednesday it has now buried the LTTE troopers’ bodies.

Sri Lanka Army and Police parading the dead bodies of the Black Tigers to the Sinhala public in Anuradhapura [Courtesy: Lankadissent.com]

SLA, Police, parading the dead bodies of the Black Tiger commandos [Photo circulated by email]
Naked bodies of Black Tigers displayed for Sinhala public by the Sri Lanka military, photo circulated by email. [Blacked out by TamilNet]
Naked dead bodies of Black Tigers, paraded by Sri Lankan military in Anuradhapura [Courtesy: Lankadissent.com]
Media reports said the Sri Lankan authorities had stripped the bodies of the LTTE troopers before putting them on display for the mainly Sinhalese residents near Anuradhapura airbase.

Two farm tractors pulled trailers loaded with the naked corpses and mutilated body parts to the Anuradhapura hospital mortuary, AFP reported Tuesday local journalists and residents.

"The tractors stopped outside the hospital where there was a large gathering of people," one journalist told AFP. "People took pictures while others were even filming."

"The bodies were taken from the camp to the mortuary. One tractor trailer contained naked bodies, bodies in the other were in plastic bags," said a journalist known to Reuters who was at the scene and asked to remain unnamed for fear of retribution.

Witnesses told Reuters the tractor trailers, used normally to collect garbage, were accompanied by military personnel and stopped for several minutes at a junction where a crowd of dozens of people had gathered in the rain as word of the trip to the mortuary got around.

The hospital mortuary, where the bodies were being taken, was just 100 metres away. There was no traffic.

According to the opposition Lankadissent.com website, the bodies were displayed to "prevent the mentality of defeat from entering the public mindset in the aftermath of this major military debacle."

The website also published photos of the tractors in procession.

The Sri Lankan Defence Ministry on Tuesday posted pictures of some of the slain LTTE fighters sprawled on tarmac at the airbase, some charred, one with eyes wide-open and one with a gaping hole in his head.

The dead were then stripped, their naked bodies piled into the back of tractor trailers, and driven along the road in full view of the public, Reuters reported.

Amid outrage sparked by the media reports, the Sri Lankan Army said Wednesday: “many of those wearing Air Force-type camouflage LTTE uniforms had to be stripped off in order to remove their hidden suicide devices or other explosives tied around their person and waists. Afterwards those corpses were covered with polythene.”

The military has denied any of the bodies were naked, and said the pictures had been doctored.

"Somebody has taken (those photographs) to tarnish the image of the (armed forces)," military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said on Wednesday, without specifying who.

"We are professional soldiers. We do not want to do (things) like that,” he was quoted by Reuters as saying.

"I can assure you we wrapped all those bodies in black polythene bags ... and sent it to the hospital," he added. "Some photographer who is interested in tarnishing the image of the army has done this purposely."

The display of mutilated bodies echoed the Sri Lankan military’s display of the naked bodies of LTTE women fighters killed in an abortive attack on the Army’s Ma'nal Aa'ru (Weli Oya) camp in 1995.

The bodies of the women were reportedly mutilated with knives before being handed back to the LTTE in body-bags.

The Sri Lankan Army also released photographs of the women’s naked bodies heaped in piles, some with their legs spread.

The photos resurfaced in 1999 during the Presidential election campaign, when the then PA government mistakenly used them in a poster campaign under the banner “Remember?” to discredit the UNP opposition by reminding voters of the horrific abuses during of the UNP’s crushing of the JVP in the late 1980s.

Criticizing the poster, by President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s PA, one Sinhala language newspaper noted: “This photograph is of women LTTE soldiers who died in the Welioya attack. Using such a photograph in the election campaign against the opposite party is against social ethics.”

“But what is more unacceptabe, is that the President, who is a mother, has come forward to disrespect motherhood by displaying and popularising such a barbarian photograph,” the Irida Peramuna said.

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