COLOMBO, July 5, Reuter: A citizens’ group said today that police killed at least 17 civilians in a raid on villages in Sri Lanka’s eastern province, but the government denied the report.

“It is a lie. Police commandos tided a jungle hideout in the Batticaloa district, killing five rebels of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam rebel group”, government spokesman Tilak Ratnakara said.

A spokesman for the citizens’ committee in Batticaloa told Reuters by telephone that commandos opened fire on residents celebrating a rice festival’ yesterday.

According to information received by the committee, he said, commandos had fired at random at people in two villages about 25 km from Batticaloa.

“Guerrillas may have been involved in the fight but the ones shot dead were all villagers”, he said.

The Batticaloa committee, a group of prominent residents, has often alleged indiscriminate killing of civilians by commandos searching for Tamil guerrillas. The rebels are fighting for a separate state in northern and Easter areas.

Article extracted from this publication >>  July 10, 1987