SL Army fires on civilians in camps
Tamils shot by army after attempting to ‘escape’ from internment camp
“The incident is one of the first undisputed examples of the Sri Lankan Army firing on civilians in the camps. It highlights the controversial status of the camps, which the Government calls “welfare villages”, and appears to violate a pledge by the army not to shoot if prisoners tried to escape.
Brigadier S. Perera, who is in charge of the camps in Vavuniya, told reporters during a recent visit that guards would “tackle to the ground” anyone trying to escape instead of firing on them with live rounds.
It was impossible to contact people inside the camps or witnesses in the surrounding area as the Government has banned independent journalists from visiting except under tight supervision by the army.”
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Sri Lankan military officials said troops fired on several displaced Tamils trying to escape from a camp where they have been kept since May.
Police said three of the civilians suffered gunshot wounds in the incident Saturday, the Times of London reported. They are among the nearly 280,000 displaced Tamils kept in the Manik Farm camp in north Sri Lanka’s Vavuniya district since the military defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels in May.
A pro-Tamil Tiger Web site said at least six people were injured in the firing. The report said the victims were collecting firewood and not trying to escape.
The military said the civilians threw stones at the soldiers as they tried to escape.
“The army fired in self defense,” said spokesman Udaya Nanayakkara, adding 19 of the Tamils were arrested.
The continued presence of such a large number of civilians in these camps where facilities are inadequate has raised international concerns and brought criticism against the Sri Lankan government. The government has promised to resettle the civilians by the end of January.