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French aid agency wants probe of Sri Lanka deaths

[AP, Saturday, 18 July 2009 10:00 No Comment]

A French aid agency is demanding an international investigation into the massacre of 17 of its workers in Sri Lanka three years ago, after a government inquiry reportedly failed to identify the killers.

The Action Against Hunger local workers were found killed execution-style in a region rocked by heavy fighting between government soldiers and separatist Tamil Tiger rebels. At the time, European monitors said they were "convinced" government troops were involved, but the government blamed the rebels.

A presidential commission of inquiry into wartime abuses was established two years ago under intense international pressure. On Tuesday, the independent Island and Daily Mirror newspapers published extracts from its final report, which said the military had been cleared of any involvement in the massacre.

The report, handed to President Mahinda Rajapaksa two weeks ago, has not been made public. The newspapers didn’t say how it was obtained.

On Tuesday, the commission chairman told The Associated Press no government forces were present during the killings.

In a statement issued late Friday, Action Against Hunger deplored the outcome of the investigation and said only an international inquiry will help identify the killers.

The aid group left Sri Lanka last year following the resignation of an international panel of experts monitoring the presidential commission, saying it had no faith in the government investigation.

There was no immediate comment from the government on the group’s latest demand, but officials have repeatedly rejected such calls as a violation of Sri Lankan sovereignty.

Rights groups have accused the government of failing to seriously investigate reported abuses during its 25-year war against the Tigers, which ended in May, and have called for an international commission to probe abuse allegations.

The presidential commission only managed to investigate seven of 16 cases of alleged abuses. The commission chairman said it could not finish because its mandate expired last month.

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