Priest protests over bombing

[TamilNet, Friday, 22 August 1997, 23:59 GMT]
Rev. Father Maulis has written to the United Nations protesting over the bombing of his church by Sri Lankan Air Force jets last Friday. Nine Tamil civilians were killed when the SLAF Kfirs dropped four 250kg bombs onto the church premises which also serves as a refugee camp. Copies of Father Maulis' letter to the UNHCR were distributed to other international NGOs operating in the Vanni.

In his letter, Father Maulis is said to have expressed his deep sorrow and anguish over the deaths of innocent civilians. Condemning the deliberate attack on his parish, Father Maulis has called on the UNHCR to inform the Sri Lankan president to halt the deliberate killing of non-combatants by the Sri Lankan military. He has also provided a list of the victims and demanded their families be compensated.

The Vavunikulam church was providing shelter to many Tamil civilians displaced by recent Sri Lankan military offensives in the Tamil homelands. Last Friday's air strike by SLAF Kfirs devastated the crowded church, killing 10 people and wounding another 15.

The SLAF has deliberately targeted civilians through out the conflict. The Israeli-made Kfirs were acquired in early 1996 (the sale was authorised by the US as the Kfir uses an American engine) and started hitting Tamil villages almost immediately.

Officially, all SLAF attacks are said to be carried out against 'identified military targets'. However, thousands of Tamil civilians have been killed in reprisal and harassment attacks by the SLAF.

Most observers of the conflict agree that the Sri Lankan military has virtually no intelligence gathering capability in the Vanni. Several unmanned drones mounted with cameras were also acquired from Israel in early 1996, but all were lost due to operator error or LTTE ground fire.

The Sinhalese dominated (96%) military has failed miserably in attempts to build a 'humint' capability: most agents were picked up by the LTTE before making any significant contribution. The Sri Lankans relied on Tamil mercenaries acting as pathfinders, but this tactic provided only a limited success during the offensive on Jaffna city in late 1995.

The lack of quality intelligence has plagued Sri Lankan offensives for many years and the SLA places its faith in unrestrained (though blind) frontal attacks to capture Tamil areas. Unable to locate the camouflaged LTTE camps and depots, the SLAF has focused on hitting the hundreds of civilian villages and refugee camps which dot the Vanni region.

Though the choice of the target is often random, these attacks are an integral part of Sri Lankan military strategy: the Sinhalese military hopes that the cumulative effect of daily harassment bombing will eventually induce war-weariness within the Tamils.

Below are some of the attacks carried out by the SLAF on Tamil civilians in the past 20 months. Whilst these are included either because of the resultant casualties or because of an unusual intensity of the raid, it should be noted that Tamil areas are being bombed almost on a daily basis.

21 January 1996
SLAF Puccara bombs refugee camps in Mannar: 5 civilians killed, 20 seriously injured

2 February 1996
Batticaloa villages strafed repeatedly by flight of 4 SLAF aircraft

24 February 1996
SLAF jets bomb Thampirai(Vanni), killing 2 civilians , wounding 4.

1 March 1996
SLAF jets attack civilians fleeing army offensive around Koduvamadu, Batticaloa.

2 March 1996
SLAF jet destroys several houses in Chundikulam.

5 March 1996
SLAF Kfirs bomb Kilinochchi after breaking sound barrier over city, causing panic.

11 March 1996
SLAF aircraft launch large raid on Vellaveli village and surrounding areas.

16 March 1996
SLAF Mi-24 gunships destroy Nachchikkudah village, Mannar: 16 civilians killed, 64 seriously injured.

17 March 1996
SLAF uses SL Army held Puthur, Avarankal and Atchuveli villages in Jaffna for bombing practice.

26 March 1996
Coastal villages of Vadamaratchi are attacked by a SLAF jet: 2 civilians seriously injured, widespread destruction.

4 April 1996
SLAF Mi-24 gunships fire several salvos of rockets into Watharavathai, Kapputhu and Mandan villages, destroying several houses.

20 April 1996
SLAF Kfir bombs Muhammalai village, killing 7 civilians and wounding several more.

21 April 1996
SLAF Kfirs and Mi-24 gunships strafe large columns of refugees (fleeing massive SL army attack) heading for Kilaly, Jaffna. 15 people are killed and 45 injured.

Kilaly is also attacked and several people killed.

Coastal areas of Mullaitivu are attacked by SLAF Puccaras: several civilians injured.

22 April 1996
Several people are killed when SLAF jets and gunships strafe refugee concentrations near Kachchai, Jaffna.

24 April 1996
SLAF aircraft attack refugees waiting to cross Kilaly lagoon, causing panic.

25 April 1996
SLAF Mi-24 gunships strafe refugee boats crossing Kilaly lagoon, injuring several people.

SLAF Kfir bombs Muhamalai, Jaffna, killing a child, her mother and her grand-father.

15 May 1996
Mullaitivu villages are bombed by 2 SLAF Kfir jets: 1 civilian killed and 6 seriously wounded.

16 May 1996
2 SLAF Kfirs attack Maruthankerni and Sempianpattu on the Jaffna peninsula, killing 6 civilians and injuring many others.

17 May 1996
SLAF air raids on Thambirai, Vanni kills 8 civilians and wounds 16. Crowded market takes several direct hits.

2 SLAF Kfirs attack Nedunkerni, Vanni killing 3 civilians and wounding 8 others.

19 June 1996
SLAF Kfirs bomb Chundikulam and Poonaithoduvai in Mullaitivu, killing 5 civilians and injuring 12.

20 June 1996
2 SLAF Kfirs bomb Mayavanur, Kilinochchi killing 3 people and destroying 6 houses.

18 July 1997
SLAF Kfirs repeatedly attack Tamil villages in Mullaitivu in revenge for LTTE attack on SLA camp.

19 July 1996
SLAF Kfirs launch punitive raids on Tamil villages far from Mullaitivu.

22 July 1996
SLAF Kfirs bomb concentrations of refugees fleeing Sri Lankan shelling of their villages.

24 July 1996
SLAF Kfirs bomb Malavi town, killing 7 civilians and injuring 20.

27 July 1996
SLAF Kfirs bomb Mankulam destroying several houses.

2 August d* 1996
SLAF planes bomb Kilinochchi town and its outskirts, destroying several houses.

4 August d* 1996
SLAF blitz on Kilinochchi continues, systematically reducing parts of the town to rubble.

5 August d* 1996
SLAF planes bomb Murugandy village, killing 2 people. All residents flee into Vanni jungle.

SLAF masses several aircraft and continuously bombs Kilinochchi town.

7 August d* 1996
Kilinochchi town almost completely leveled by systematic bombing, combined with continuous artillery strikes.

SLAF aircraft attack other Vanni towns and villages, targeting large public building such as schools and temples.

24 September 1996
SLAF gunships strafe refugee column, wounding several civilians.

25 September 1996
SLAF aircraft continue to attack refugee columns at Puthumurippu, Kilinochchi, killing at least 5 civilians, and wounding 15 others.

SLAF Mi-24s attack Poonaithoduvai, Kilinochchi killing another 5 civilians and seriously wounding 20 others.

26 September 1996
SLAF Kfirs bomb Vavunikulam town, killing 4 and seriously wounding 12 others. Several houses are flattened.

SLAF Mi-24s strafe Punaithodduvai village, wiping out a family of 4.

27 September
SLAF Kfirs attack Konavil, Kilinochchi killing 4 civilians and wounding 8 others.

2 October 1996
SLAF aircraft attack villages in Mullaitivu and Batticaloa, killing several civilians.

20 October 1996
SLAF aircraft attack Chundikulam village, killing 3 civilians and injuring several others. Vehicles moving the wounded are pursued and strafed.

14 November 1996
SLAF Kfirs launch widespread raids on Vanni villages, killing 1 and wounding 6 others.

15 December 1996
SLAF aircraft destroy a school in Pavatkodichenai, Batticaloa, killing 4 civilians.

24 December 1996
SLAF aircraft continue to scatter bombs across rice fields in Batticaloa, rendering fields too dangerous to work.

9 January 1997
SLAF planes attack Tamil villages in Kilinochchi district: 3 people are killed at Visvamadu and 3 others at Chundikulum.

10 January 1997
SLAF dawn raids destroys a Hindu temple at Kandawalai.

12 January 1997
SLAF aircraft slaughter herds cattle and goats in the vicinity of Kilinochchi.

31 January 1997
SLAF jets bomb Udayarkaddu, Mullaitivu, killing 2 people, wounding several others. Herds of cattle are slaughtered.

7 March 1997
SLAF jets bomb Mullaitivu and Manal Aru areas in punitive air strikes following LTTE attack on SLAF base at China bay.

13 March 1997
SLAF Kfirs and Puccaras launch continuous 8 hour air raid on villages in Mullaitivu. Several people are killed, devastation is widespread and thousands become refugees.

17 April 1997
SLAF Kfirs bomb fishing boats, killing 3 people, injuring six others and destroying 20 boats near Nachchikudah.

13 May 1997
SLAF Kfirs bomb Mullaitivu coast, killing six fishermen and injuring seven.

15 May 1997
Nedunkerni town is devastated by SLAF Kfirs and Mi-24s. The entire population flees.

SLAF jets devastate Puliyankulam and Omanthai. Destruction is widespread and residents flee.

9 June 1997
SLAF Kfirs slaughter 50 cows in a field by a Hindu temple in Puthukulam, Vanni.

2 July 1997
SLAF Kfirs pound Mankulum, severely wounding 2 children.

15 July 1997
Hundreds of cattle are slaughtered by SLAF aircraft and SLA shelling.

3 August d* 1997
SLAF launches repeated air attacks on Mullaitivu villages.

6 August d* 1997
SLAF blitz on Mullaitivu continues unabated. Schools, Houses, fishing boats and livestock bear the brunt.

7 August d* 1997
SLAF planes hit schools holding exams in several parts of the Vanni.

12 August d* 1997
Mullaitivu, Thiriyai and Puliyankulum towns are hit by SLAF aircraft, resulting in widespread destruction of homes.

15 August d* 1997
SLAF Kfirs bomb Vavunikulum church, killing 9 people and wounding 15 others.

Kfirs return to hit Puthuvilankulam village, seriously wounding 10 people.

A typical SLAF raid

On 20 April 1996, Sri Lankan Kfir jets bombed Muhammalai in the Jaffna peninsula. Ramasamy Aruljayanthy lost her father, her older sister and her niece in the attack. This is a translation of her account of the attack.

"When we first head the noise of the jets, we ran into the air-raid shelters which had been dug into the ground. Two bombs exploded near our bunker. I fainted. When I regained consciousness, I found my father had had his head blown off. My sister's body had been torn apart and pieces of her child were near by.

I screamed for help and neighbours came and helped me to dig out the bunker in which my 3 children had been buried by the explosions. By some miracle, we pulled them out alive, even though they had been badly injured.

My elder sister's two other children, her husband and my little 9-year old sister had also been seriously injured and are in Manthikai hospital in Point Pedro. There were many other badly wounded people.

We held a funeral for my relatives the next day. Even then, the Sri Lankan jets attacked the mourners, dropping 8 bombs. Almost all my relatives were badly burned. Seven of them are missing, and we cannot find them. I am sure they were killed by the bombs which completely burnt all the houses in the area."


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