Tamil council to count Sri Lanka war casualties

Updated 26 December 2013
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Tamil council to count Sri Lanka war casualties

COLOMBO: The provincial government in Sri Lanka’s main Tamil region said Thursday it would compile its own death toll from the country’s ethnic war, saying an ongoing census would play down the number of casualties.
Tamil officials said the census ordered by President Mahinda Rajapakse last month would give a distorted picture because of its “flawed” terms of reference, arguing that a more credible alternative was needed.
“The council will work out the logistics of taking a count,” Dharmalingam Sithadthan, a senior member of the Northern Provincial Council, told AFP from the regional capital Jaffna.
“This is something we have to do because we don’t accept the government census.”
The United Nations has estimated that at least 100,000 people were killed in Sri Lanka’s 37-year separatist war with about 40,000 civilians killed in the final months of fighting in 2009.
The Rajapakse government kicked off its own census late November after disputes over the scale of the killings in the final phases of the war dominated a Commonwealth summit in Colombo earlier in the month.
Sri Lanka has repeatedly rejected allegations that its troops killed civilians while battling the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who were also accused of using civilians as a human shield.
While launching the government census in November, the head of the Public Administration Ministry, P.B Abeykoon, said they had “nothing to hide.”
But Suresh Premachandran, a member of the Tamil National Alliance party who represents Jaffna in the Parliament, said the census had been designed to minimise the death toll.
Compilers of the census would only be able to ask survivors whether they had lost spouses, sons or daughters and would not be allowed to ask survivors about the fate of their parents, said Premachandran.
The census would also lack any input about casualties from survivors who have sought refuge.
“We strongly believe this is an attempt to give lower figures for war fatalities,” Premachandran said.
“For planning purposes of the council, we want the actual numbers, not watered down figures,” he added.
The provincial council says it needs comprehensive casualty figures to provide social services to widows, orphans and other victims of what was one of Asia’s longest and bloodiest conflicts in the post-colonial era.
Rajapakse, who is a member of the majority Sinhalese community, has rejected proposals for international investigators to conduct their own separate inquiry.


Suicide bomber kills 31 in Afghan capital, Daesh claims responsibility

Updated 22 April 2018
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Suicide bomber kills 31 in Afghan capital, Daesh claims responsibility

KABUL: A suicide bomber struck a voter registration center in the Afghan capital on Sunday, killing at least 31 people, officials said.
Public Health Ministry spokesman Wahid Majro said another 54 people were wounded in Sunday's attack, updating an earlier toll. Gen. Daud Amin, the Kabul police chief, said the suicide bomber targeted civilians who had gathered to receive national identification cards.
The large explosion echoed across the city, shattering windows miles away from the attack site and damaging several nearby vehicles. Police blocked all roads to the blast site, with only ambulances allowed in. Local TV stations broadcast live footage of hundreds of distraught people gathered at nearby hospitals seeking word about loved ones.
Daesh which has been behind past bombings in Kabul that targeted civilians claimed responsibility.
Afghanistan will hold parliamentary elections in October.
Last week, three police officers responsible for guarding voter registration centers in two Afghan provinces were killed by militants, according to authorities.
Elsewhere in Afghanistan, a district police chief in the northern Balkh province died of his wounds after being shot Saturday during a gunbattle with insurgents, according to Sher Jan Durrani, spokesman for the provincial police chief in Balkh. He said around a dozen insurgents were also killed in the battle, which is still underway.
Durrani identified the slain commander as Halim Khanjar, police chief for the Char Bolak district.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the killing.