STF fire on demonstration - 5 killed, 15 wounded

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 09 October 2002, 18:06 GMT]
Five civilians were killed and fifteen were wounded when commandos of the Special Task Force, an elite wing of the Sri Lankan armed forces, opened fire on a public protest at Kanjirankudah, 84 kilometres south of Batticaloa, around 6.30 p.m. Wednesday. The shooting followed tension in Tamil areas in Sri Lanka’s southeastern coast after word spread that two members of the Liberation Tigers were severely assaulted by the STF and had been admitted to hospital.

The bodies of several civilians could not be recovered from the scene of the shooting until late, sources said.

The head of the LTTE’s political division for the Pottuvil area, Mr. M. Visuvanathan and a Tiger activist, Mr. Christy Rajah were travelling in a tractor when some commandos of the STF stopped them at the Kanjirankudah camp, which is by the main road on the island’s southeastern coast around 10.30 a.m. Wednesday morning. The commandos had started assaulting the driver and Mr. Rajah when they had got down from the tractor to find out why they had been stopped.

Mr. Visuvanathan had then intervened and informed the STF personnel who were assaulting them that he was an LTTE official and that they were transporting some material for constructing a memorial.

The STF commandos told him that they knew he was from the LTTE and that is why they were assaulting the driver and Mr. Rajah, according to Mr. Visuvanathan . Thereafter they had severely beaten him up too with the handle of a mammoty.

The two LTTE members were seriously injured in the STF assault and had to be admitted to the Thirukkovil hospital for treatment.

Tensions ran high in the Tamil villages of the Ampara district as word spread that the STF had assaulted LTTE activists. Protests erupted in many places while shops and government offices were closed early.

Later in the day about five hundred people from the village of Vinayagapuram went in a procession to demonstrate in front of the Kanjirankudah STF camp against the assault.

Tensions were further exacerbated in the Vinayagapuram area because the STF at Kanjirankudah was perceived as the main perpetrators of the total ban on cultivation here last year. Thousands of farmers faced ruin when the STF barred them from entering the rice-producing region south of Kanjirankudah after they had ploughed and sown their fields.

A stand off developed between the people from Vinayagapuram and the STF during the demonstration in front of the camp.

Sources said that STF commandos had then opened fire on the crowd, killing five and wounding fifteen. Reports from the area earlier in the evening said that the bodies of two civilians who were shot dead were lying near the camp.

 

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