ACF workers, 14 Tamils and a Muslim, lined up and shot - Fact Finding Mission

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 08 August 2006, 07:26 GMT]
"The bodies [of Muthur massacre victims] were all face downwards on the front lawn [of ACF office], seemingly lined up and shot at very close range. The sight was too much to handle," said a Fact Finding Mission of the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies (CHA) that visited Muthur town Sunday where 14 Tamil and a Muslim worker of Action Against Hunger (Action Contre la Faim, ACF) were allegedly massacred by Sri Lanka Army (SLA). The CHA report further verified that most of the deceased were wearing ACF agency T-shirts. Meanwhile, reports from Trincomalee on Tuesday said 17 bodies of ACF workers, 16 Tamils and a Muslim, were brought to Trincomalee hospital.

Extracts from the CHA report follows:

  • There were unconfirmed reports of ACF staff in Muttur either being killed or missing following the confrontation. Inquiries were made of the whereabouts of the humanitarian staff from the SF personnel and the civilians. Most of the SF personnel stated that they are not aware as they had come in as reinforcements and were involved in consolidating their own positions and taking account of their losses. Civilians too said that they were unaware but directed us to the office.

  • Whilst proceeding in the vehicle to the ACF office in Muttur town, a civilian in a motorcycle informed us that the staff had been all killed and he could lead us to the office site. On approaching the office, we came across this gruesome sight of bodies with a very strong stench. The bodies were all face downwards on the front lawn, seemingly lined up and shot at very close range. The sight was too much to handle.

  • Somehow, it was felt that evidence was a necessity and to ensure that they all are staff of ACF. The civilian who accompanied us confirmed that they are all ACF staff. Most of the deceased were wearing ACF agency T-shirts. When inquired how he was sure that they were all ACF staff he stated that, the bodies of others in the town had been claimed and funeral rights done and these bodies need to be claimed by next-of-kin of the deceased. He said he was aware of a deceased who is a Muslim male but not from Muttur and are unable to perform funeral rights without the authority of the family.

  • Eerie and risky, though, we went into the ACF office compound and the office proper over and around the bodies to look for tell tales and any other evidence. The office rooms looked as being ransacked except for the front room securely padlocked. We counted bodies of eleven males and four females Helpless; we withdrew with some evidence in hand. We thanked the civilian who accompanied us and advised to take care of himself.

On passing Palattadichcheni, we came across two ambulances off the road with a crater on the ground due to either a landmine or shelling. The area looked a typical war zone with blood strewn on and around the wrecked ambulances with personal belongings of the probable injured evacuees around the vehicles.

Iridiyapuram Displacement
"On our way out of Muttur, on driving a few kilometers, a lone old man gestured us to stop. He had come out of the Iridiaandawan Church in Iridiyapuram. He was requesting for food as he and so many others in the church have had no food for the last few days. Whilst in conversation we saw women and children in numbers coming towards us from the church with the hope of receiving aid.

"When we explained our mission and the unavailability of aid with us at this moment, the disappointment was evident. These are all tamil families displaced due to the confrontation who are living in total fear. Unlike in Muttur where some stocks are available, these families numbering 250 families as per their count are without any. They cannot move either ways, they are caught in the government controlled area surrounded by different ethnic groups, military and the LTTE as sitting ducks with no source of food whatsoever. A pathetic state of affairs. Guilty as ever we left them assuring that we would do our best.

Family in Palattadichchenai
"Once again in Palattadichchnai, a tamil family walked on to the road and requested for aid. They said that a shell fell into their village and all the people left the [area].

"Since they had nowhere to go they stayed back and have nothing to survive.

Danger En-route
"At Palathoppur, civilians whom we met on our way to Muttur, informed us that the ICRC convoy at Serunuwara had been turned away after pelting the convoy with stones (unconfirmed) by the villagers of Serunuwara and for us to take great care.

"We drove through, Serunuwara with caution but did not face any hostility.

Chaotic Kantale
"With first hand information we arrived to Kantale late evening to share our information. Kantale suddenly seemed to be full of officials than the displaced. We could not access any of the officials as they were busy individually and engaged in meetings etc. A losing battle to get some authorized high ranking official/s to give us a hearing, that too worthwhile, we proceeded to the CHA Trincomalee District Office to inform those concerned in Colombo.

Immediate Need

"The following are recommended;

  • Government and military to take lead role in securing safe passage through Sinhala Villages for relief to reach those in and en-route to Muttur (including Serunuwara).
  • Government and humanitarian joint effort to proceed to Muttur immediately to investigate on the gruesome deaths of the ACF staff, identify the dead, recover their bodies and hand over to their next of kin for a decent burial.
  • Government led humanitarian effort to reach those suspected casualties dying due to neglect in Sahayapuram (off 64th Mile Post) and recover dead bodies (as told by Muttur civilians) and hand over to next of kin.
  • Provide relief to those displaced in Muttur (5000 people), 250 families in Idiyapuram church and those isolated families en-route.
  • Government to retain evidence and investigate the circumstances leading to the:
    • Killing of ACF staff.
    • Attack on two ambulances
    • Killing of civilians in Sahyapuram – on inquiry.

"A concerted effort by all actors within the humanitarian sector, government and the LTTE is required to ensure the safety of civilians and un-denied humanitarian access to the destitute. Consequences could be far reaching if serious remedial action is not taken now."



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