Sri Lanka Monitors Say Government Troops Killed Air Workers

In a searing indictment of the Sri Lankan government, the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) said government security forces killed 17 aid workers on 6 August in the eastern town of Mutur in one of the worst attacks against humanitarian workers worldwide in recent years. The victims were employees of the French branch of the international aid agency Action Against Hunger, which had worked on tsunami reconstruction and provided water and sanitation services to people displaced by war. The government has angrily rejected the monitors’ finding. But SLMM noted that security forces had been in Mutur at the time of the killings, that the government had barred an investigation by the monitors, and that confidential conversations with “highly reliable sources” had pointed to the culpability of the security forces. The findings were issued on the eve of the departure of SLMM staff from European Union member countries—Denmark, Finland, and Sweden. The rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam demanded that European Union citizens leave the mission after the EU added the group to its list of banned terrorists in May. Monitors from Norway and Iceland, which are not EU members, will remain in Sri Lanka, but the size of the mission will shrink by half, to about 30. Along with its statement regarding the murders in Mutur, the monitors also blamed the rebels for a mine attack on a civilian bus that killed 68 people in June, and held the government responsible for mine attacks in rebel-held territory from April through June. Meanwhile, clashes between government and rebel troops are continuing.