ICRC confirm 2,200 soldiers missing in action
[January 10, 2003 - 10.30 GMT]

“Out of 11,000 army personnel reported missing, at least 2,200 are confirmed missing,” ICRC spokesman Sukumar Rockwood told the PRIU today. “The remaining 8,800 are tracing cases,” he said. Tracing is the Red Cross term for locating missing persons.

Rockwood said that it was only upon a request made by both the Army and the LTTE that the ICRC can be involved in the matter of inspecting people in LTTE custody.

At least 25,000 personnel of the Sri Lankan armed forces had been killed during the two decades of fighting and no one categorized as Missing in Action is in LTTE custody, chief negotiator Dr. Anton Balasingham told a news conference at the end of the fourth session of peace talks here,” the Daily Mirror reported today.

He said many soldiers, who were killed had been listed by the army as missing in action.

"On several occasions we found hundreds of bodies after a battle. We wanted to hand them over to the army through the ICRC. We are sorry to say they refused to accept the bodies," Dr. Balasingham said.

"The previous government had told the people in the South that thousands of prisoners of war are under LTTE custody. We have officially told the ICRC that we don't have prisoners," he said. Dr. Balasingham also said the LTTE had lost nearly 17,500 cadres during the battles and there were a large number under government detention, about 400 of whom were released recently.

Government's chief negotiator G.L. Peiris, who refused to comment on the numbers, said that they would seek ICRC assistance to look into "involuntary disappearances".

A top ranking Army official contacted by the PRIU rejected the LTTE claim but refused further comment.






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Last Updated Date: January 10, 2003  - 10.30 GMT.

ICRC confirm 2,200 soldiers missing in action
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