Friday, June 5, 2009

The human cost of Sri Lanka's war: Too many heroes

From The Economist print edition

ALONGSIDE some of the government’s finest military hardware at a ceremonial parade in Colombo on June 3rd were dozens of disabled soldiers in gleaming wheelchairs. Sri Lanka has paid a heavy price for its recent rout of the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the defence secretary and brother of the president, has admitted that 6,261 soldiers were killed and 29,551 wounded in three years of fighting. He revealed, too, that a total of 23,000 troops have died since the first casualties in October 1981, when the Tigers’ leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, sprang off a bicycle and shot two soldiers running errands in the northern town of Jaffna. Prabhakaran and much of the army he built are now dead. The Tigers have not disclosed their losses but the Sri Lankan army commander, General Sarath Fonseka, says an estimated 22,000 have been killed in the past three years, and 9,000 have surrendered.

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