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Confusion over LTTE and civilian casualties: Lanka Defence Secretary tells probe body

By Abdul Nisar

Colombo, Aug.18 (ANI): Sri Lanka's Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has said confusion prevails in the minds of many over how many casualties in the Eelam War IV that was waged from August 2006 to May 2009, were civilian and how many were LTTE causalities.

Testifying before Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, Rajapaksa, who is the brother of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, said while 6,000 troops died and 30,000 injured, the damage suffered by the LTTE was at least same if not more.

The BBC quoted him as saying: "I want to bring out this fact because some people talk about these civilian casualties. It is a very difficult thing to identify civilian casualties. If the military suffered, you can imagine the number of LTTE casualties. Nobody talks of LTTE casualties."

"They all put these figures into the civilian casualty figures. Obviously, if the Army suffered that much, it was at least the same amount of casualties from the LTTE. I am sure it is much more because the firepower of the government forces," he added during his three-hour long deposition on Tuesday.

President Rajapaksa constituted the commission to look into incidents from the time of ceasefire between the government and the LTTE in 2002 till the end of war in May 2009.

Gotabhaya Rajapaksa told the commission that at the beginning of the war, the LTTE had over 30,000 regular cadres, including child soldiers. He said that over the years, the rebels acquired weapons almost matching what the army had.

Replying to a question from a commission member, Rajapaksa said that 30 percent of the 11,000-odd LTTE cadres who had surrendered, have already been trained and rehabilitated.

He also said that the government was constructing security establishments, including shelters for the defence personnel only on "government land" in the country's Northern Province.

"The government has plans to acquire private land in these areas and provide alternative land to the displaced. The areas in Vanni like the bunker used by the LTTE leader Prabakaran and the other buildings of the Tigers are taken over by the military," he said.

On the plans of the government to transfer power from the military to the civilian administration, Rajapaksa said 500 Tamil police officers were being trained for deployment in the Northern Province.

Rajapaksa is widely seen as the mastermind of the victory against the LTTE in May 2009, and he vigorously defended the government's war record. (ANI)

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