Sri Lanka military parade marks rebel defeat

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The Independent Online

Sri Lanka showed off its military hardware during a victory parade yesterday to celebrate the first anniversary of the defeat of Tamil Tiger rebels, amid growing criticism over alleged rights abuses in the last phase of the quarter-century civil war.

The conflict that killed more than 80,000 ended last May. Artillery, tanks and multi-barrel rocket launchers were featured in the parade down Colombo's main thoroughfare, Galle Face. Thousands of troops, including disabled soldiers in wheelchairs, joined in. Warplanes and helicopters flew over Galle Face while navy gunships sailed along the coast.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa denied allegations that civilians were targeted during military operations and said offensives were carried out only to wipe out "terrorism".

"Not a single bullet was fired at civilians from your weapons," he said in his address to troops at the parade.