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Sri Lanka's Genocidal War - '95 to '01
Helicopter guns ships attack Tamil civilians 16 March 1996
Seventeen Tamil civilians, mostly children and the aged were killed by Sri Lanka helicopter gunships on 16 March 1996 in the village of Nachchikuda in the East. About sixty were seriously injured. The affected people had earlier fled Jaffna when their homes came under military attack during the time the Sri Lankan armed forces launched a military offensive to capture Jaffna from October 1995 to December 1995. Particulars of the 16 killed, released by official sources in Nachchikuda were:
Julian Delin (Baby Boy) 6 Month from Gurunagar; Kanthasamy Senthilkumar(Child) 09 from Koddady; Kanagasingam Tharsini (Child) 10 from Anaikoddai; Anton Mary Amalini (Child) 12 from Maniyan Thoddam; Anton Jegadeepa (Child) 12 from; Navanthurai Antonipillai Lawrencestayn (Child) 15 from Anaikoddai; Zavier Consal (Child) 15 from Navanthurai; Mahendiran Yalini (Girl) 18 from Navanthurai; Ponnambalam Selvarasa (Boy) 18 from Maniyan Thoddam; Soosaipillai Amalotpararani (Girl) 21 from Mathagal; Victor Lucia (Girl) 23 from Gurunagar; Mariathas Edlisiar (Male) 30 from Gurunagar; Alphons Packianathan (Male) 48 from Mathagal; Zavier Gnanamani (Female) 52 from Gurunagar; Velan Arumugan (Male) 60 from Nachchikudda and Thavasi Velayi (Female) 68 from Koddady
"Sri Lankan helicopters fired on a group of Tamil refugees, killing 16 civilians, Tamil rebels said today. The army put the number of dead at 30, and said they were all rebels.
The military initially denied the attack, but reversed itself late today, saying the gunships assaulted a rebel base at Nachchikuda, 160 miles north of Colombo, on Sunday. It said 30 Tamil guerrillas died and many were wounded.
However, Tamil rebels said 16 civilians died in the attack and 60 were wounded. They said the attack targeted a refugee camp the guerrillas control at Nachchikuda.
A report in the Tamil-language Veerakesari newspaper quoted travelers as saying the weekend attack killed eight civilians. It is impossible to confirm reports from the war-torn north, which has no telephone lines. The government has prohibited visits by journalists for a year. Tamil guerrillas have been fighting for a homeland in northern and eastern Sri Lanka since 1983, claiming the Sinhalese majority discriminates against the Tamil minority. More than 40,000 people have been killed." (Associated Press Report, 18 March 1996)
Rev.Dr.S.J.Emmanuel, Vicar General for Jaffna wrote to Sri Lanka President Chandrika Kumaratunga on 14 April 1996:
"Seventeen innocent civilians, mostly children and aged, killed on the spot. Sixty seriously wounded and many houses damaged by fire in the early hours of Saturday morning of March 16. This was the planned retaliatory attack of the Sri Lankan Air Force on a sleeping village. For the third time in recent months, your Armed Forces have attacked this coastal village of Naachchikudah merely under a non-confirmed suspicion that some Sea Tigers were operating from that coast and without the least regard for the mass of poor refugees there.
They executed this disaster with their two newly-acquired Ml 24 helicopters flying over Mulankavil around 4.50 am and firing rockets (sideways ) into the fishing village Naachchikudah. This least known village, lying 50 km west of Killinochchi became known mostly after the historic exodus of poor fishing families from Passayoor, Gurunagar, Navanthurai, Navali and Mathagal of the Jaffna district on October 30. They sought refuge in a coastal village so as to continue their survival with fishing - the one and only profession they know for their lively hood.
This massacre of the innocents, as we have come to experience, within a few hours of the incident will most probably be 'explained away' by the Sri Lankan Forces in their now well known characteristic fashion. Well, that has been done all along in the case of a long series of massacres during the last forty years! None of these have been in any way compensated - neither houses built nor funeral expenses paid nor even apologies extended.
Yet acknowledging you as Head of a Government proclaiming to seek a peaceful solution to the ethnic issue and as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces sent to liberate the Tamil people from the Tigers. I think it is still our duty to place before you the glaring facts of the incident and ask a pertinent question from you.
On Friday 15.3.1996, it was reported that the Sri Lankan Navy had an encounter with some Sea Tigers off the Pallimunai (Mannar) sea, and while chasing the Tigers, the Navy had hit a sea-mine on the way and had lost eight of their personnel in the blast. No sane person will find fault if the Navy had chased the Tigers and attacked them with all their might. But what did they do? They resorted hours later to one of the worst and cowardly acts of firing rockets on a sleeping village of refugees! We can understand civilians getting caught in an exchange of fire between fighting forces, but not a retaliation of this nature.
The Tamil parties in Colombo might ask you for a commission of inquiry (not dare for any compensation) and the government, which appears to solve problems by just appointing commission after commission, might readily appoint just a one man commission, if possible of a soldier.But we are not asking for any such thing, but plead with you for a convincing reply for the following questions:
* How is your Government going to bring to an end this spiral of violence which has been started many years ago by the previous governments ?
*How are you justifying such cowardly retaliation of the Forces as part of your attempts for Peace? "