Sri Lankan army to count civilian deaths

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The Independent Online

Sri Lanka said yesterday that it was conducting its own count of how many civilians were slain at the end of its bloody civil war, to counter claims that tens of thousands were killed and fend off international calls for a war crimes inquiry.

Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa also acknowledged for the first time that soldiers may have committed "crimes" and promised an investigation.

It marked a major shift for a government that had sworn its soldiers were beyond reproach and insisted not a single civilian was killed by its forces in the final stages of the war against Tamil Tiger rebels. A UN report in April said tens of thousands of civilians may have been killed.