Authorities admit civilian casualties

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The Independent Online

Sri Lanka acknowledged for the first time yesterday that civilians were killed in the final phase of its 26-year civil war against Tamil Tiger rebels, but called the deaths unavoidable.

The government's statement – issued a few months after a UN panel of experts cited credible claims of rights violations by both troops and rebels – marks a reversal from its insistence that its troops adhered to a "zero civilian-casualty policy".

It also hopes the document will convince the world that it waged a just war. A defence ministry report said "it was impossible" to avoid civilian deaths, given the magnitude of the fighting and ruthlessness of the opponent. The report analyses the war's events and denies allegations that troops committed human rights violations and executed prisoners before the war ended in May 2009.