Robert Blake, Colombo , 19 March
OFDA Regional Adviser met on March 18 with a group of 15 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Vavuniya who fled the “safe zone”, including a Sri Lankan employee of the International Organization for Migration (IOM). This contact reported that the LTTE is now widely recruiting from among the trapped population, forcing both young and old to fight, and is positioning its artillery within civilian concentrations. The IOM worker confirmed the skirmish on March 17 following LTTE attempt to forcibly recruit civilians who were offloading food supplies, leading to wider retaliation by the IDPs.
Robert Blake, Colombo 21 April
General Fonseka (despite previous denials that the Sri Lanka forces had entered the No-Fire Zone) told us the SLA has split the NFZ in two, and predicted that the northern area would be cleared today. Ambassador, noting we had received reports of artillery use, stressed the crucial importance of avoiding civilian casualties and not using artillery and other indiscriminate weapons. Fonseka said the LTTE is firing artillery and that the SLA has not used artillery in the last two days. He said the SLA is primarily using rifles and occasionally “infantry mortars” to fire at hardened LTTE positions when less than 50 meters away. He said the civilians were well behind these LTTE positions.
James R. Moore ( Charge d’Affaires), Colombo 29 April 2009
Despite the Government’s April 27 promise to end use of heavy weapons in the conflict, post continues to receive reports from multiple reliable Embassy sources with access to first-hand information of firing causing civilian deaths and injuries in the Government-designated “safe zone”. Some indicated that since April 28 much of this may have been “indirect fire” from battlefield mortars, which would be consistent with President Rajapaksa’s April 27 announcement, but would still cause numerous casualties if used in proximity to civilian concentrations.
James R. Moore ( Charge d’Affaires) Colombo, 5 May 2009
Post considers it possible that individual field commanders or the Army command might have resorted to the use of heavy weapons while protecting the Commander-in-Chief from this information. Rajapaksa has been known to call individual battlefield commanders in the past to ask for frank assessments when he feels out of touch with ground realities. While the senior officials we spoke with concerning the satellite images conceded nothing, our effort still could lead to the President conducting his own inquiries and a possible change of the Sri Lankan Army’s conduct of the battle in progress. The President remarked at lunch before this meeting that India had satellites and was monitoring the ground situation in Sri Lanka. It will now be equally clear to the Sri Lankan government that we are watching, too.
May 5, 2009
James R. Moore ( Charge d’Affaires )
Tough resistance continues, likely from hardcore LTTE cadres. The contact reports “raining” LTTE mortar fires and LTTE artillery. The LTTE dispatched 2-3 suicide bombers yesterday in fighting within the “safe zone” resulting in heavy casualties on both sides. The 53 Division advanced about 300 meters southward but has not yet reached the bund. The Sri Lankan Air Force reported that Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) coverage showed LTTE back-hoes and civilians still constructing a second defensive berm, but only the eastern side is near completion.
An Air Force contact reported UAV coverage shows about 2 kilometers distance between the northernmost civilians and forward troops. He said the Army is moving mostly at night, suffering 40-50 casualties a night. He estimated Army casualties last night were approximately 60.
May 7, 2009
James R. Moore ( Charge d’Affaires )
Heavy shelling in the conflict zone killed at least 300 civilians on May 9 and 10. A medical worker in the conflict zone reported that 378 civilians were killed and over 1,000 injured. A priest in the conflict zone reports over 1,000 civilian deaths. Pro-LTTE website Tamilnet reports that 1,200 bodies were counted following alleged Government shelling, and alleges that over 2,000 civilians were killed (Note: estimates on this website cannot be substantiated and are often exaggerated). The Government claims the LTTE was responsible for the shelling and that the international media has been “blinded” by the LTTE. A local newspaper reported that Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa called the accusations “ridiculous”, saying, “The army couldn’t have mounted a large scale artillery assault without the international community knowing it… Had they employed satellites to monitor the area of operations, they would have known the ground situation”. The Government accused the LTTE of firing and killing a number of fleeing civilians.
May 11, 2009
James R. Moore ( Charge d’Affaires )
MAY 21 – Vijay Nambiar, Chief of Staff to the UN Secretary General, accompanied by UN Resident Representative Neil Buhne, flew over the former safe zone on May 21, as low as tree top level, by military helicopter. Buhne reported to Charge that they saw no civilians in the area, only military. It is expected that the Secretary General will make a similar overflight on May 23. The government is reluctant to allow the SecGen to land in the zone.
May 19, 2009, S/WCI Amb. Clint Williamson
Jacque de Maio, ICRC Head of Operations for South Asia
Williamson noted that the USG had limited access to the conflict zone and therefore it will be extremely difficult to present conclusive evidence about exactly what happened during the conflict, let alone who was responsible. Therefore, the Department would have to rely in large part on reports from open sources, NGOs, and International Organizations that were on the ground or otherwise active on Sri Lanka during the fighting………
For example, he (Jacques de Maio) said that the Sri Lankan military was somewhat responsive to accusations of violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and was open to adapting its actions to reduce casualties […] He could cite examples of where the Army had stopped shelling when ICRC informed them it was killing civilians. In fact, the Army actually could have won the military battle faster with higher civilian casualties, yet chose a slower approach which led to a greater number of Sri Lankan military deaths…
July 9, 2009
Patricia A. Butenis
Most outside, neutral observers privately agree that the GSL could have finished off the LTTE more quickly if they had been willing to risk a higher level of civilian casualties.
October 30, 2009
10 responses to “Wikileak Disclosures of Secret US Despatches on the Last Phase of Eelam War IV in 2009: Appendix III for “BBC Blind”
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