Tamil Americans United

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Chencholai bombing

On August 14 2006, four Sri Lankan air force jets flew over the Vanni and dropped sixteen bombs over the Sencholai children’s home for orphans, killing 53 school girls and 3 teachers.

The children’s home had been designated a humanitarian zone and its GPS coordinates had been passed to the Sri Lankan military via the UN children’s agency, UNICEF, and the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC).

As news of the massacre broke, the Sri Lankan government initially denied the bombing had taken place. It later claimed it had bombed a training camp of the Liberation Tigers (LTTE) and killed “50-60 terrorists.”

“We have studied this for three years and know what was going on,” claimed Sri Lankan government spokesperson Keheliya Rambukwella.

“If the children are terrorists, what can we do? The fact is that gender or the age limit is of no concern when it comes to training and when it comes to soldiers, because they are carrying arms in order to kill the enemy.”

That claim was rejected by international ceasefire monitors of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) and UNICEF.

These children are innocent victims of violence,” said Ann M. Veneman, Executive Director of UNICEF said in a statement.

UNICEF’s Colombo chief, Joanna VanGerpen told reporters: “we don’t have any evidence that they are LTTE cadres…  From what we understand at this point, these children were from surrounding communities.”

UNICEF staff from a nearby office immediately visited the compound to assess the situation and to provide fuel and supplies for the hospital as well as counselling support for the injured students and the bereaved families.

Ms Van Gerpen told reporters, “We visited the site and saw severed limbs that were there”. Speaking to the BBC, she also said, “We did see more than 100 [wounded] in the local hospitals, some with loss of limbs, head and shrapnel injuries.”