Sri Lankan Shelling Killed 20,000 Civilians
Photos, UN documents reveal hidden massacre at civil war's end
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted May 29, 2009 7:41 AM CDT
Tamil civilians stand in line to collect water in the Manik Farm refugee camp located on the outskirts of northern Sri Lankan town of Vavuniya Tuesday, May 26, 2009.   (AP Photo/David Gray, Pool)
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(Newser) – The final battles of the 26-year civil war in Sri Lanka killed more than 20,000 Tamil civilians, most from government shelling, an investigation by the Times of London concludes. The number of casualties is three times higher than the government admitted. Aerial photographs, eyewitness testimony, and confidential UN documents show that an average of 1,000 civilians were killed every day until May 19, when the leader of the Tamil Tigers was killed.

Sri Lanka kept journalists from the war zone as it made its final offensive to crush the Tamil rebels, a move one UN source said was intended to create "a war without witnesses." The Times was able to take aerial shots while traveling with the UN secretary-general. The photos depict mass graves and air-burst mortars, which suggest that the army and not the relatively weak rebels were responsible for the killings.