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* Sri Lanka Army rejects US claim that Army shelling killed hundreds of families in North
Thu, Jan 9, 2014, 10:40 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Jan 09, Colombo: Sri Lanka Army today rejecting a United States' claim that the Army shelling had killed hundreds of families at St Antony's Ground, Iranapallai in the North as completely 'baseless', said the U.S. is laying grounds for a much larger campaign in the future.

The U.S. Embassy in Colombo today in its official Twitter account posted a photo of the Ambassador Michele Sison and the visiting Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, in the Office of Global Criminal Justice at the Department of States Stephen J. Rapp standing at the site and captioned the photo as "St Anthany's Ground - site of Jan 2009 killing of hundreds of families by army shelling".

Army Spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya in a statement said that allegation that the Sri Lanka Army shelling had killed hundreds of families at St Antony's Ground, Iranapallai is completely baseless.

"It is surprising to see a baseless allegation of this nature being released by the US Embassy without any credible verification. Although the reason for this release is best known to them, this could be part of a much larger campaign that they intend launching in the near future."

The statement said that according to people who live in that area the LTTE had used this ground as a place to handover dead bodies of their cadre who succumbed to injuries received during fighting.

"If this place was not safe the LTTE would never have used it for that purpose. They also confirm that there never was an incident of shelling on this ground when civilians were present," the spokesman said.

"It is surprising to see a baseless allegation of this nature being released by the US Embassy without any credible verification. Although the reason for this release is best known to them, this could be part of a much larger campaign that they intend launching in the near future," he said in his statement.

"It could also be an attempt to give credence to otherwise baseless allegations that have been propagated by some governments and separatist elements with the support of some international media organizations," the Army said.

The visiting U.S. official yesterday has assured the major Tamil party, Tamil National Alliance, that the U.S. would move a third resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council session in March calling for an international probe on alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka, according to the TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran.

Rapp, who is in Sri Lanka on a six-day fact finding mission, visited the former conflict areas in the North along with Ambassador Sison.

Photos of him visiting the Puthumathalan school and hospital in "No Fire Zone 2", and touring the site of former UN Headquarters in the "No Fire Zone" in Puthukudiyiruppu were posted on the U.S. Embassy official Twitter account.

The officials have also met with the Northern Provincial Council member Ananthi Sasitharan to discuss plight of the disappeared in the region and visited the Uthayan newspaper office in Jaffna.

The External Affairs Ministry has sought a clarification from the U.S. Embassy on the locations Rapp visited in the North and the tweets, the Colombo Gazette reported.

Meanwhile, activists of the National Patriotic Organizations Forum staged a protest Thursday against the U.S. official's visit and many organizations in Sri Lanka condemned his statement that the U. S. is bringing a resolution to try the island nation for war crimes.

Speaking at the protest campaign Secretary of the Patriotic Bhikku Front Venerable Bengamuwe Nalaka Thero said the U.S. has deliberately forgotten the war crimes committed by the LTTE. The Thero called on all patriotic people in Sri Lanka to unite against the U.S. move.

Sri Lanka Youth Lawyers' Association also condemned Rapp's statement. National Organizer of the Lawyers' Association Premanath Dolawatta accused the visiting diplomat of making the statement with the intention of ruining the existing peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.

He questioned why the U.S. is silent on the atrocities committed by the LTTE and not investigate the assassinations committed by the LTTE terrorists for over three decades.

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