Kills six soldiers and injures ten others, who were cleaning the church

Every now and then, the LTTE gets tired of pretending. Pretending to be the saviors of the Tamil people, pretending to be good guys is no doubt hard, when that is far from the truth. That is probably why, every now and then, the mask slips, and the LTTE reveals itself for what it really is - a ruthless terrorist group, with no respect for the rights of others.

In almost three decades, the LTTE, in line with its total irreverence for human life, has also shown utter contempt for all religions. The latest atrocity it committed was the artillery attack on the much venerated Catholic Church in Thalladi, Mannar, on February 12, 2008. A barrage of artillery fire killed six soldiers and injured 10 other soldiers who were cleaning up the church premises in preparation for Lenten pilgrimages.

Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said that the volunteer soldiers attached to the nearby army camp, were cleaning the church for the occasion. The attack took place while thousands of Catholics were preparing for an important church event.

Auxiliary Bishop of Mannar, Rev. Father Anton Victor Sobai has condemned the LTTE attack and expressed regret at the death of the six soldiers and the injuries sustained by ten other soldiers.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka (CBCSL), on February 15, vehemently condemned the LTTE attack on the Church. In a statement, the CBCSL said that the attack by the LTTE was deplorable as all places of worship are sacred and should be kept free of violence and bloodshed even in combat. It offered its deepest condolences to all the bereaved families of the soldiers. The statement said, "We urge once again strongly, that the trend of using sacred places to indulge in wanton attacks of destruction of life and property in callous disregard of the sacredness of all places of worship never be repeated.

In the meantime, the LTTE repeatedly keeps proving it has no respect for the sanctity of religion or places of worship. On February 9, 2008, LTTE cadres took cover at the sacred Madhu Church in Mannar and fired 80 mm mortars towards security forces. With a history of over 400 years, the Madhu Church is considered the holiest Catholic shrine in Sri Lanka, by Sinhalese and Tamil Catholics. On November 20, 1999, Tigers attacked Madhu Church with artillery fire, which resulted in the death of 42 Tamil civilians, seriously injuring another 61. Thirteen of the dead were children.

These unholy acts of desecration of holy places are but the latest in thet acts of callous disregard of the LTTE for all religions and places of worship.

Lost among the shrouded veil of time, are many atrocities the LTTE committed over the years against Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians. In 1985, in the most revered and historical premises of the Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura, Tigers gunned down in cold blood, 150 Buddhist worshippers. Around the same time, Tigers killed two Japanese Buddhist priests in Aanaikoddai, Jaffna, as they chanted for peace, beating the Japanese drums. They were considered a nuisance and irritant and killed by LTTE. In June 1987 they massacred 30 Sri Lankan Buddhist priests, including young novice priests and 4 civilians travelling in a bus in Aranthalawa in the East, for a religious ordination ceremony; another 15 Buddhist priests were injured in this attack. In January 1998, the LTTE attacked Sri Lanka’s holiest Buddhist shrine and UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Temple of the Tooth, in Kandy. This unprovoked attack led to Sri Lanka banning the LTTE.

The LTTE, over the years, has shown no respect for the Hindu religion practiced by the majority of the Tamil community. Some Hindu priests were beaten and tortured by the LTTE cadres for not adhering to their orders. Furthermore, Tigers have systematically killed over sixteen Hindu priests. The latest killing was in February 2007, when they targeted the Chief Priest of the Santhiveli Pilleyar Kovil, Batticaloa, in the Eastern Province, following his blessing of President Mahinda Rajapaksa during President’s visit to the East. 2008 began with an LTTE attack inside a Hindu kovil in Colombo, where Opposition UNP Parliamentarian T. Maheswaran was shot dead in cold blood. In 1976, Tiger Leader Prabhakaran assassinated Mayor Alfred Duraiappah, when the Mayor was worshipping at the famous Perumal Temple in Karainagar in the Jaffna Peninsula.

On August 3 and 11, 1990 respectively, in the Eastern Province, 110 Muslim men at prayer in mosques in Kattankudy, and 130 men, women and children in Eravur, were massacred by a group of 50 LTTE cadres brandishing T-56 assault rifles, knives and razors. In 1991, at Palliyagodella, also in the East, 109 Muslims including women and children were hacked and shot dead by the LTTE. Around 650 families were displaced in the incident.

Apart from such brutal killings, the LTTE has consistently used Hindu temples for hiding, looting jewelry and cash and indulging in clandestine terrorist activities. LTTE operatives especially in Western Europe and North America, routinely take control over Hindu temples as a lucrative source to fund the LTTE war chest.

Furthermore, according to media reports, on February 1, 2008, police in Wattala, in the Western Province, arrested three Evangelical Christian priests with suicide jackets in their possession. Under interrogation, the priests confessed they had brought down 30 suicide cadres from Mannar to Kandy and Nuwara-eliya. They also accepted they had transported several suicide kits and weapons to those areas. One of the arrested was later identified as a Pastor of a church in Mannar. On February 20, 2007, security forces uncovered a cache which contained LTTE equipment and cyanide capsules, from the St. Mary's Church in Jaffna. It also appears that the LTTE is pressurizing the Christian clergy to transport weapons and explosives and also suicide cadres to many parts of the country.

For the LTTE, with its unrelenting drive to use unmitigated violence to achieve its political goals, desecrating places of religious worship, killing worshippers in prayer, and exploiting and coercing the clergy, is just another step in their quest for a separate state.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

15 February 2008

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