Sri Lanka Calls Images ‘Fake’ Denying Hospital Shelling, as Propaganda War Intensifies
Sri Lanka’s military has denied that it shelled a makeshift hospital in a Tamil Tiger-held conflict zone in the northeast of the country, killing at least 67 people.
TamilNet, a pro-Tamil website, had alleged the hospital in Mullivaikal was hit by artillery shells fired by government forces on Saturday.
Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara, Sri Lanka’s military spokesman, said that the claims were the latest in a series of “exaggerated stories” by those sympathetic to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
“There is no shelling taking place; we have never shelled this place and it happened in an area where the LTTE [are in control],” he told Al Jazeera.
“They must take the full responsibility for the people who were killed or injured.” >>>
Sri Lanka’s military has accused the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam of fabricating images that purported to show the aftermath of a deadly army attack on a hospital in the conflict zone.
The photographs, first published on a website, depicted what Tamil separatist sources said was an artillery hit on a makeshift hospital in Mullivaikal on Saturday.
The pro-LTTE website alleged that government sources had killed 81 people after two consecutive days of shelling.
But Al Jazeera’s David Chater, reporting from Colombo on Sunday, said Sri Lankan military experts “have analysed the pictures and claim they were deliberately posed for propaganda purposes”.
“Their analysis: ‘Not a single scratch mark on the fridge with a body lying at its base, unbroken glass bottles and no pellet marks on the walls, a bottle remains steady on the stretcher, all after the claimed shelling’,” he said.
“The message, the government says, is clear: The foreign media have been taken for a ride by the Tamil Tigers.” >>>
Military commanders on the ground in northern Sri Lanka say no civilians have been killed in their offensive in the last several months to defeat the Tamil Tigers. A United Nations report says 6,500 civilians have died in the fighting since the beginning of the year. But in a rare briefing in the Northern Province for correspondents permitted to travel there, top-ranking officers claimed only Tamil Tiger fighters have been killed by military forces.
International human rights group claim many of the civilians deaths that have occurred this year are due to military action.
Sri Lankan government ministers say such organizations, as well as the United Nations, are dupes for the propaganda of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which is listed as a terrorist organization by many nations.
With the LTTE’s total defeat, possibly just days away, the Army has invoked what it calls a zero tolerance policy regarding civilian deaths. >>>
As Sri Lanka’s 25-year civil war reaches its endgame, so too the fierce propaganda war that has accompanied the conflict is reaching its crescendo.
Faced with defeat, the LTTE has been accused of forcibly herding the population of its former northern territories into the conflict zone.
The military estimates that since January about 185,000 people have escaped the area, leaving up to 20,000 civilians in the rebel held zone, according to the government, or at least 50,000, according to the United Nations.
For Velupillai Prabhakaran, the LTTE’s elusive leader, concerns over civilian casualties may offer him the last hope of salvaging what looks to be a hopeless situation as he uses international alarm over the humanitarian situation to press for a diplomatic solution.
Mr Prabhakaran has proven an expert tactician on both the military and diplomatic fronts since the war began in 1983.
In recent weeks, Sri Lanka has hosted a flurry of diplomatic visits from the UK, France and India, with most officials calling for a ceasefire to allow the civilians to escape. >>>