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* Secret military death squad killed journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge, CID tells court
Mon, Mar 20, 2017, 09:00 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Mar 20, Colombo: The Criminal Investigations Department (CID) told a Sri Lankan court today that a secret army intelligence unit which targeted journalists and dissidents was behind the killing of veteran journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge.

The CID told the Mount Lavinia Magistrate's court that questioning of former Army commander Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka revealed that an elite squad operating under former Military Intelligence Director Major General Kapila Hendawitharana had killed Wickremetunga.

All assaults on journalists that took place during the previous Rajapaksa government were carried out by this elite military intelligence unit and the then Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa directed this secret military unit, former Army Commander has disclosed to the CID.

Lasantha Wickremetunga was assassinated on January 8, 2009 by four assailants who stopped him on his way to his office on Attidiya-Mt. Lavinia road, in a suburb of Sri Lankan capital.

In a written report to court, the CID said a fresh autopsy revealed that Wickrematunge had been stabbed and not shot as previously recorded in the original death certificate and died due to stabbing to the head with a sharp instrument. Earlier reports said his assailants opened fire at him.

The body of the slain journalist was exhumed by the CID in September 2016 as part of a fresh investigation into his death after allegations that the original autopsy report had been falsified to deliberately mislead investigators.

The Mount Lavinia Court ordered police to carry our further investigations and arrest any suspects involved.

After Monday's court hearing a senior police officer has told AFP that authorities were close to making more arrests over the murder, after five military intelligence officers were detained last month.

A staff sergeant in the army intelligence unit was arrested in July 2016 in connection with the murder and he was released on bail in October.


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