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Sri Lanka: ICRC hands over soldiers' remains to the Sri Lankan Army

18-07-2006 News Release

Press release issued by the ICRC delegation in Colombo on 15 July 2006.

Following the clashes yesterday between the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Vakaneri, Batticaloa district, the ICRC was asked by both sides to act as neutral intermediary to hand over 12 bodies.

On 14 July 2006, the LTTE informed the ICRC sub delegation in Batticaloa that they were in possession of one captured and wounded SLA soldier and of 12 bodies of soldiers killed during the clashes between the LTTE and the SLA in Vakaneri in the early morning. The LTTE stated its readiness to hand them over to the ICRC. The ICRC office in Batticaloa immediately contacted the SLA to inform them about the LTTE proposal, expressing the ICRC's willingness to arrange this handover upon SLA acceptance. The commander of 23 Brigade, Col. Rajapatirana, officially requested the ICRC's services to bring all the bodies from the LTTE side. The ICRC immediately mobilised two Landcruisers and a pickup. Dr. Gianluca Russo from the Italian Red Cross was part of the ICRC team, for his medical expertise.

The handover of the 12 bodies took place this morning (15.07.06), in Illupadichenai on the Badulla Road, 7 Km from the SLA checkpoint known as " Black Bridge Badulla Road " . Three separate transfers were required to transport all 12 bodies from Illuppadichchenai to the Black Bridge. LTTE cadres led by Mr Dayamohan, political wing leader of Batticaloa district, handled the bodies, put them in body bags provided by the ICRC and transported them into the ICRC vehicles. The ICRC delegates proceeded then to the SLA checkpoint and handed over the bodies to the SLA.  Its soldiers handled all the bodies after having identified them in the ICRC Landcruisers. Col. Napagoda, command er of 232 Brigade, was in charge of the operation for the SLA side.

Before starting with the transfer of the bodies, the ICRC asked the LTTE in Illupadichenai for access to the injured SLA soldier, allowing Dr. Russo to check the medical condition of the wounded soldier. The LTTE told the ICRC delegates that they could not have access to him prior to high-level LTTE approval. Mr. Dayamohan stated that the ICRC would have the possibility to visit the captured SLA soldier soon. The ICRC repeats its request to the LTTE to have access to the soldier as soon as possible.