16 workers for French aid group slain in Sri Lanka

7th August 2006, Comments 0 comments

COLOMBO, Aug 7, 2006 (AFP) - A French charity Monday recovered the bodies of 16 local staffers who were killed while fighting was going on between Sri Lankan troops and Tamil Tiger rebels in a northeastern town, an official said.

COLOMBO, Aug 7, 2006 (AFP) - A French charity Monday recovered the bodies of 16 local staffers who were killed while fighting was going on between Sri Lankan troops and Tamil Tiger rebels in a northeastern town, an official said.

Paris-based Action Against Hunger (Action Contre la Faim, ACF) said it sent staff to recover the bodies of 15 staff members, but found 16 corpses at the offices in the town of Muttur where heavy fighting raged last week.

Aid officials said they were not in a position to say how the staffers had been killed but several witnesses who saw the bodies Sunday said they had been shot dead.

Troops and the Tigers blamed each other for the execution-style killings.

"The bodies are being brought by road to the town of Trincomalee where we have a regional sub office," an ACF spokesman said. "The bodies will be taken to hospital for an autopsy tomorrow."

ACF had struggled since the weekend to get access to the area. But sporadic long-range attacks, which continued throughout Monday and which Tiger rebels said killed another 15 civilians, hampered efforts to reach the fishing town.

The recovery effort involved travelling a longer route. Dozens of relatives of the victims had gathered outside the ACF offices in Trincomalee awaiting news of their loved ones.

ACF chief in Colombo Eric Fort said the Muttur office had employed 16 people from the town itself and another 165 who had commuted from Trincomalee, a distance of 12.5 kilometres (7.5 miles) across the Koddiyar Bay.

Sri Lanka will order a "clean and independent" investigation into the reported killings, the human rights minister told AFP Monday.

The government will grant "very high priority" to probe charges that 11 men and four women, all locals employed by the French group Action Against Hunger, were gunned down in the town of Muttur, Mahinda Samarasinghe said.

"We can't come to conclusions right now but if the story is correct, it will be a very high priority investigation," the minister said. "I can assure a clean and an independent investigation."

ACF said the employees, all Sri Lankans, had been shot over the weekend in Muttur, where they helped survivors of the December 2004 tsunami as well as those affected by the violence in the country.

The minister said he was working with the International Committee of the Red Cross to get access to Muttur, where heavy fighting between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels has killed dozens of civilians.

"I am in contact with the defence authorities to see that the ICRC is able to have access to the area," Samarasinghe said. "I am relying on the ICRC to go in and find out what exactly happened."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

 

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