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Remembering Nagerkoil School Bombing -Jaffna

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Today in shrty.PNG

  • Nagerkoil School bombed under cover of press censorship - 22 September 1995
On 22 September Nagerkoil Central School in the Jaffna peninsula was bombed. The intensified aerial bombing and shelling by Sri Lankan government forces came about within hours of the government's imposition of Press Censorship midnight September 21.

The bombing of the school happened at 12.50 p.m. during the school's lunch break when several of the school children were gathered under a shade tree in the school compound. 25 school going children were among 40 Tamil civilians killed on the spot. Twelve were six and seven year olds. Nearly 200 others were injured, most of them students in the same school. Elsewhere in the area, 15 other civilians were also killed in the course of the same bombing raids. The scene of the attack was visited by the International Red Cross. Pieces of human flesh were strewn around the area including the tree branches, making identification impossible.

The total death toll later increased to 71.

Earlier, on the same day, Pucara bombers targeted Manalkadu and Katkovalam in the Vadamardchi area killing six persons. A small Catholic church was also damaged in the bombing. In another incident in the early hours of the same day, intense shelling from the Palaly army camp killed seven members of the same family including four children of varying ages, The shelling began at 3.00 a.m. and continued until 7.00 a.m.

Medicines Sans Frontiers reported on 23 September that of 117 injured Tamil civilians admitted to hospital during the offensive on Thursday and Friday more than half had died from their wounds.

"In a new offensive against Tamil rebels, Sri Lankan warplanes have bombed civilian targets, killing at least 42 children, an international relief agency said Saturday. The rebels issued a statement from London saying 71 people had died in the bombing campaign Thursday and Friday in the northern Jaffna Peninsula, the stronghold of Tamils fighting for independence.

Under strict new censorship rules imposed by the Sri Lankan government on Thursday, no information about the offensive was allowed to be published in that country. The Doctors Without Borders (Medicine Sans Frontier) relief group released a statement in Paris saying about 200 people were wounded when bombs fell on a school near Point Pedro on the northern coast Friday.

Of some 150 children who were wounded, 15 died within three hours of being brought to hospital, the relief agency said. It said 42 children have died at the hospital since Thursday, but did not say how the other children received fatal injuries. The main rebel group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, said 25 children were killed when the Nagerkoil Central School was bombed at lunch time Friday. More people were killed when planes bombed towns in the area, the rebel statement said. New censorship rules prohibit the publication or broadcast of information related to Sri Lanka's 12-year civil war without approval from a military censor." (Sri Lanka Bombs Civilians, 23 Sep 95 13:46 The Associated Press)

The British Refugee Council, Sri Lanka Monitor reported:

"Hours after the Sri Lanka government imposed military censorship on press reporting of its bitter and unpredictable war... on 21 September, aircraft bombed a Jaffna school yard crammed with 750 children on their lunch break, killing 34 and seriously injuring over 150 others.

Two surgeons from French medical agency Medecins Sans Frontierers (MSF) worked through the night at Point Pedro's Manthikai hospital carrying out 22 amputations, four cases of both legs. Ten of the amputees were under 12. The LTTe says 71 Tamil civilians were killed in bombing raids in Nagarkoil and Vadamaratchy areas in a 24 hour period.

Military sources first denied the attack then claimed Nagaroil was a Sea Tiger base where LTTE cadre had gathered to honour Tiger martyr Thileepan.. Six weeks earlier, Sri Lanka aircraft bombed civilians seeking refuge around Navaly Catholic church four miles west of Jaffna town killing 130 people and injuring 120...

Reports of the Nagarkoil bombing were heavily censored under the new restrictions.. Like Navaly, whether Nagarkoil was accidental or deliberate, air and artillery attacks on northern civilians will continue... Civilians are unidentifiable from the air - unless perhaps there are 750 of them all dressed in spotless white school uniforms." (British Refugee Council publication, Sri Lanka Monitor September 1995)

The Director-General of UNESCO Fredrico Mayor condemned the Nagerkoil bombing by low flying Pucara aircraft:

"I condemn in the strongest terms this attack on a school where innocent children were killed. Whatever the political situation in a country nothing justifies attacks on educational institutions."

In Australia, Mr.Ted Grace, a member of the Australian Parliament and Chairman of the Caucus Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence & Trade called for public condemnation of Sri Lanka in a speech in the Australian Parliament on 27 September. Speaking on the wanton massacre of school children, he said:

"Our Government which is deeply committed to upholding human rights should publicly condemn such crimes committed against humanity and should be alarmed at the Sri Lankan Government's determination to carry out such acts with impunity.



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