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Catherine Philp - foreign correspondent, The Times (of London)

The most serious canard advanced against Sri Lanka is of massive numbers of civilians having been killed. This was first floated in the London Times, which gave a figure of 20,000 and gave three separate reasons for this calculation. The first was that the UN had assessed the number of those who died by the end of April at around 7,000, and after that deaths were at the rate of about 1000 a day. Later the Times claimed that it had extrapolated a figure, which was based on I think quadrupling the number of actual dead bodies. Finally they claimed to have satellite imagery of graves in the area in which the LTTE made its last stand.

This last preposterous claim belied the initial assertion that it had included those who had died in earlier months, which would of course have been elsewhere. It also made clear the determination of the LTTE to distinguish as civilians all those who died.

I have noted elsewhere that those who died would fall into three categories. The first is that of LTTE fighters who were committed members of the organization, well trained in terrorism. The second is those who were forced by the LTTE to fight. We know that the number of these was enormous. The UN was aware, though they did nothing about it, not even publicizing the fact, that from 2007 onward if not before, the LTTE was insisting that all families in the Vanni provided one member for the LTTE fighting force.  Since the number of families in the Vanni turned out to be much larger than the UN had indicated, we have to assume that, even if the LTTE was only half successful, they would have added another 30,000 or so into their fighting ranks.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

April 2011
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