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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 May 2006, 06:53 GMT 07:53 UK
Sri Lanka Tamil massacre mystery

By Dumeetha Luthra
BBC News, Allaipiddy

Villagers packing fishing boat onto bus
Departing villagers are even bringing fishing boats with them
Sri Lanka is in a dirty war. Almost 300 people have been killed since the beginning of April.

Increasingly civilians have become the pawns in the conflict between the government and the Tamil Tiger rebels.

In one of the worst recent incidents, 13 civilians were murdered. Both sides have been accused of the crime but it is unlikely the culprits will ever be caught.

Kayts is a tiny island off the coast of the Jaffna peninsula in northern Sri Lanka. The water is so shallow there are two causeways that connect it with the mainland. Each is manned by a checkpoint.

The island is controlled by the navy. Allaipiddy is a village of some 800 people. It is one of three places where the recent killings took place.

In one house a family of six were shot dead whilst they slept. One was a four-month-old baby, another a four-year-old boy.

Devarasan Dixon is a family member. He shows us where the victims had been sleeping when they were shot.

"All that I know is that four men came in and shot them," he says.

Warning posters

The bloodstains have gone, the bullet holes remain, a patchwork within the tiles.

"We don't know whether the military did this or the Tamil people," he says.

The permutations are endless. It could have been the Tamil Tiger rebels.

They in turn blame the navy, either acting alone or with a Tamil group opposed to the Tigers. It depends who you ask.

Devarasan Dixon
Devarasan Dixon lost several family members

However, the question has mobilised the entire village.

Rabindran Parameswari is crouching outside her home ready to leave. A few sacks of her belongings lie alongside, her children huddled around her.

"We mostly think it is the military, and the paramilitaries along with them. They're blaming someone else, but we are certain that it's done by them," she says.

Posters put up days after the killings have warned everyone to go. No one is sure who's behind them. No one is waiting to find out.

The village is now almost deserted. Cows, boats, everything has been crammed on the back of trucks.

Failure to protect

A few policeman remain, they arrived only a week after the killing. They say they are here to protect the residents, and have a different version of the truth.

"Those people have been told what to say. The reality is there was an eyewitness to the murders and they shot the eyewitness.

"This is purely a [Tamil Tiger] rebel strategy to bring shame to the government through the navy. It's a planned thing," a policeman says.

At the other end of the island, behind his iron gate, Magistrate Jeyaram Trotsky - named after the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky - has four policemen to protect him.

Whoever is behind the killings, he says the state failed to protect civilians.

Villagers leaving Allapaidy
Posters have warned the villagers to leave - and few are resisting

"The navy camps are also close to the shops and the houses where people were killed. So the people are asking the court, why didn't they give us protection, even when we were in the church, why didn't they give the protection?

"We did nothing for them, at the same time the police, navy and other security personnel failed to give proper protection to the people."

The villagers are all packed onto buses, and they are not sure where they are going. Some are aiming for rebel-held territory.

The problem is they do not know where they will be safe or who has their best interests at heart.

The Tigers say they are fighting for Tamils, the government say they are protecting all Sri Lankans.

But so far the only constant in these people's lives has been death and displacement.

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