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Sri Lanka : ICRC recovers bodies from wreckage of downed military aircraft

09-05-1995 News Release 18

During a murderous week-end attack on the Jaffna peninsula, two Sri Lankan military aircraft were shot down on 28 and 29 April by the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) opposition group near Palaly airbase. According to a Sri Lankan government source, a total of 98 people died. The second aircraft was shot down over an area controlled by the LTTE, which asked the ICRC to go in and recover the bodies of the 52 passengers. The operation took place on 29 April in the Pannaikadduvan area, north-west of the town of Jaffna, with the agreement of the authorities in Colombo. An ICRC team collected the remains of 49 soldiers and three journalists, all Sri Lankans. The following day the bodies were transferred, by ship, from Point Pedro to Kankesanturai, in government-controlled territory, where they were handed over to the Sri Lankan military authorities.

The ICRC, active in Sri Lanka since 1989, was instrumental in starting up peace talks between the authorities in Colombo and the LTTE. During the recent truce, which lasted from 8 January to 19 April, the ICRC continued to act as a neutral intermediary by helping to pass on messages between the authorities in Colombo and the LTTE leaders through its office in Jaffna.