5TH LEAD

5 civilians killed, 44 wounded in Pesalai, SLN troopers lob grenades at church

[TamilNet, Saturday, 17 June 2006, 02:59 GMT]
Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) troopers shot and killed four fishermen at the shores of Pesalai in Mannar and lobbed at least four grenades Saturday morning into the Church of Our Lady of Victory in Pesalai, killing a woman and wounding at least 44 persons, half of them in critical condition. The four fishermen were killed at the shores of Pesalai, 15 km northwest of Mannar, around 7:00 a.m. Saturday, when the troopers began attacking civilians after a naval battle with the Sea Tigers near Pesalai. Six of eight missing SLN troopers were confirmed dead in the sea fight, according to SLN sources.

44 civilians were transferred to Mannar hospital from Pesalai Peripheral Medical Facility. Around 20 persons were in critical condition and were being transferred to Anuradhapura and Vavuniya hospitals.

The troopers also opened fire inside the church, according to the wounded civilians.

Around 25 huts belonging to fishermen were also burnt down by the SLN troopers.

LTTE officials in Mannar said a movement of the Sea Tigers in LTTE-controlled seas was attacked by SLN boats, and the Sea Tiger boats repulsed the SLN gunboats into a Sri Lanka Army-controlled area.

Sri Lanka Navy sources put the casualty figures of the Tigers higher than the SLN casualties.

Many civilians sought refuge during recent days at the church of Our Lady of Victory, St. Mary and St. Fatima schools in Pesalai. Many of them stay at the church and the schools during the night time and leave for their huts and houses early in the morning.

More than 2000 civilians had sought refuge at Our Lady of Victory Church following the recent escalation of violence in Pesalai.

Sources in the bishop's house in Mannar said there were not enough ambulances to transfer seriously wounded civilians from Pesalai Peripheral Unit to Mannar hospital.

Mannar hospital sources also said there were not enough ambulances to transport seriously wounded persons to other hospitals.

The Sri Lanka Army and the Police were not allowing private vehicles to be used as ambulances, civil sources said.

Meanwhile, shells were fired towards Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)-controlled territory in Mannar from the Thallaiady Sri Lanka Army (SLA) camp.

The Associated Press also said that numerous villagers, now being treated in the nearby government hospital, gave near-identical accounts of security forces storming the northern town and shooting civilians.

"We were all inside the church when the navy and army broke in and opened fire. A grenade was thrown inside through a window," said Mariyadas Loggu, 46, who was being treated for hand injuries at the government hospital in nearby Mannar. "If this is what the people responsible for security do, where else can we go?"

Reporters were unable on Saturday afternoon to reach Pesalai, which was sealed off by government roadblocks.

 

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