“Human shields” at Madhu

[TamilNet, Sunday, 21 November 1999, 13:14 GMT]
The Liberation Tigers Sunday denied Sri Lanka Army (SLA) accusations that they had killed scores of Tamil civilians by shelling the revered Catholic shrine at Madhu. The LTTE said SLA troops had shelled the church and used refugees sheltering there as human shields. The Tigers called on international NGOs to prevail upon the Sri Lankan military and halt this practice.

The Tigers also denied they had engaged the SLA in the environs of Madhu church and said the SLA had taken advantage of the distance the Tigers were maintaining from the town to take control of the shrine and its occupants.

Wounded survivors admitted to Vavuniya hospital also accused the SLA of firing into the church packed with refugees.

The text of the statement follows:

“The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) wish to deny categorically the accusation made by the Sri Lankan military that our organisation was responsible for the massacre of Tamil refugees in the Madu church.”

“It was the Sri Lankan army, which launched a sudden artillery attack on the surroundings of the Madu church causing the mass slaughter of innocent civilians.”

“34 civilians were killed and 60 injured when a barrage of artillery shells fired by the Sri Lankan army fell among the refugee population around 9.30pm last night while they were sleeping in the church premises.”

“At the same time a commando unit of the Sri Lankan army stormed into the defenceless church premises last night holding thousands of refugees as a human shield.”

“In view of the possible dangers of civilian casualties, the LTTE fighters have avoided confrontation with the army in the holy sanctuary but made an appeal to the church authorities and the international NGO’s (UNHCR, ICRC) to prevail upon the Sinhala military not to use the Tamil civilian population as a cover and shield for military purposes.”

“We wish to condemn this method as an inhuman act of cowardice.”

“Madu church and its surrounding area were liberated by the LTTE fighters last Thursday as the occupying troops fled the area without resistance.”

“In agreement with the church authorities, the LTTE kept the area demilitarised as a respect to the sacredness of the sanctuary.”

“Utilising the defencelessness of the pilgrim town, the Sri Lankan military has occupied the church premises and firing artillery indiscriminately in the area.”

 

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