Sri Lanka: Suicide bombing leaves civilians facing tit-for-tat nightmare

Growing threat of reprisals puts innocent civilians in the firing line

Amnesty International today condemned the actions of a suicide bomber, reportedly dressed as a civilian, who blew herself up yesterday killing 28 people and wounding dozens of others.

The attack exposes the increasing danger civilians are now facing in the war-ravaged north of Sri Lanka. Yesterday’s attack, which violates international law, happened at a checkpoint for civilians fleeing the conflict zone.

Yolanda Foster, Amnesty International’s Sri Lanka expert, said:

“Blurring the distinction between civilians and combatants means that thousands of ordinary people, desperate to flee the conflict area, are at greater risk of reprisals and getting caught in the crossfire.”

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), commonly known as the Tamil Tigers, have a long history of using suicide bombers and have, in the past, targeted civilians. They have not claimed responsibility for yesterday’s attack.

Yolanda Foster said:

“The Tamil Tigers must immediately and publicly disavow the use of tactics such as suicide bombers disguised as civilians

“It is important to remember that the use of such attacks by one party to an armed conflict does not excuse unlawful attacks in response.

“This perfidious assault should not be used as an excuse by the Sri Lankan military to abuse displaced civilians who should still be treated in accordance with international law.

“The Sri Lankan security forces must still make sure that their actions are directed against military targets and not civilians.”

The government has restricted media access to conflict areas making it impossible to verify accounts of what is happening on the ground.

“In a war with no witnesses, it is the civilians who pay the price for both parties’ disregard for international humanitarian law”.

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