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Sri Lanka's Conflict

At least fifteen people were killed and twenty-three wounded in an attack on a crowded bus about two-hundred-sixty kilometers north of Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo. Sri Lankan authorities say the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or Tamil Tigers, were responsible for the bombing.

In late November, thirteen people, eleven of them children, were killed by a roadside bomb in Killinochchi. And bomb attacks on a government office and a shopping mall in Colombo left twenty-one people dead and thirty-six wounded.

Sri Lankan security forces detained over two-thousand Tamil civilians in the wake of these attacks. Authorities say that all but some one hundred of the detainees have been released. But human rights monitors say that civilians continue to suffer at the hands of Sri Lankan security forces and Tamil Tiger insurgents, as well as pro-government paramilitary groups, which are responsible for extrajudicial killings, abductions, torture, extortion, and child soldier recruitment. “Both the [Tamil] Tigers and government forces are brazenly violating the laws of war by targeting civilians or failing to distinguish between civilians and combatants,” said Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch.

In its latest report on human rights in Sri Lanka, the U.S. State Department said that “credible sources reported human rights problems, including unlawful killings by government agents, high profile killings by unknown perpetrators, politically motivated killings by paramilitary forces associated with the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, and disappearances.”

U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Robert Blake spoke to a human rights seminar attended by Sri Lankan army battalion commanders. He said the U.S. supports efforts by the Sri Lankan government to stop Tamil Tiger terrorists. But “effective counterterrorism,” he said, “requires respect for human rights.” Ambassador Blake said that “in battle, soldiers may occasionally act outside the law. What is important is that there are laws and institutions set up to investigate and respond appropriately to such transgressions.”