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The United Nations brushed aside calls Wednesday to investigate alleged human rights abuses in the recently concluded fighting between government forces and Tamil Tiger (LTTE) rebels in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka’s allies on the 47-member council, including China, Cuba and Egypt, forced through a resolution with 29 votes to 12 against and six abstentions condemning the rebel group for using civilians as human shields but stressing that the war was a “domestic” matter that didn’t warrant outside interference.

A majority on the council backed Sri Lanka in its defeat of the LTTE rebels after years of civil war. This position remained dominant despite pressure from some aid organizations such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) which have previously been accused of taking a pro-rebel stance. Human Rights Watch is now active in the conflict region of Pakistan.

The U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay (of South African Tamil Origin) and several European countries, along with Canada, Chile and Mexico had backed a probe, and had urged Sri Lanka to fully open up refugee camps to international aid agencies.

The Geneva-based council chose instead to recommend that Colombo provide aid groups only with “access as may be appropriate” to refugee camps.

Sri Lanka’s ambassador in Geneva said European nations had failed with their “punitive and mean-spirited agenda” against his country. “This was a lesson that a handful of countries which depict themselves as the international community do not really constitute the majority,” said Ambassador Dayan Jayatilleka. “The vast mass of humanity are in support of Sri Lanka,” he told The Associated Press.

The Sri Lankan government relaxed restrictions on motor vehicles in the country’s largest refugee camp today, the UN also said.

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Readers of my blog have seen and felt the relief that I felt with the recent defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka and the demise of its leadership. The list below is the main reason that I am so relieved and excited to see this terror group gone from Sri Lankan soil. Piliyandala, pictured in the civilian massacres section below is where I grew up.

The information below is based on an article published in the Sunday Times in Sri Lanka on May 24th 2009 which attempts to create a chronology of the attacks that the LTTE (or Tamil Tigers) are responsible for.

Attacks on Moderate Tamil Leaders

The LTTE assasinated Tamil politicians and leaders who disagreed with their policy of all-out violence. Some of the attacks:

Lakshman Kadirgamar
Neelan Thiruchelvam
A Thangathurai
A T Duraiyappah
A Amirthalingam

2005 August 12: Minister of Foreign Affairs Lakshman Kadirgamar assassinated in Colombo.
1999 July 29: Dr. Neelan Thiruchelvan, TULF MP
1998 September 11: Ponnuyhurai Sivapalan, Jaffna Mayor
1998 May 16: Sarojini Yogeswaran, TULF Mayor of Jaffna
1997 October: S.P. Dharmalingam, SLFP organizer for Jaffna
1997 July 5: A. Thangathurai, TULF MP for Trincomalee
1990 June 19: K. Pathmanabah, Leader of EPRLF (together with all but one member of the party’s politburo)

1990 June 19: V Yogasangari, EPRLF MP in Madras
1990 May 7: Sam Thambimuttu, EPRLF MP and his wife.
1990 January 28: Ganeshalingam, ex EPRLF Provincial Council Minister for North and East
1990 January 28, Dr. (Mrs) Rajini Thiranagama , Human rights activist and lecturer in Anatomy at the University of Jaffna and Co-author of the book ‘Broken Palmyrah”
1989 July 16: PLOTE leader Uma Maheswaran
1989 July 13: V. Yogeswaran, ex-TULF MP for Jaffna
1989 July 13: A. Amirthalingam, Leader of the TULF
1989 June 28: K. Pullendran, Assitant Government Agent, Kopay

Rajini Thiranagama Uma Maheswaran

1989 May 1: V.M. Panchalingam,Government Agent, Jaffna
1989 March 7:S. Samabandamoorthy, ex-TULF chairman, District Development Council, Batticoloa
1988 October 27: Raj Shankar, President, Citizen’s Committee, Tennamarachchi
1988 June 6: Rev. Fr. Chandra Fernando, President, Citizen’s Committee, Batticoloa
1988 March 28: Velmurugu Master,TULF organizer and Citizen’s Committee member, Kalmunai
1988 March 8: S. Wijeyanandan, District Secretary, Ceylon Communist Party

1988 January 13: S. Siththamparanathan, principal, Wigneswara Vidyalaya, Trincomalee
1987 December 14: M.E. Kandasamy, Principal, Palugamam Maha Vidyalaya
1987 October 8: S.S. Jeganathan, Assistant Government Agent, Batticoloa
1987. October 8: Anthonimuttu, Government Agent, Batticaloa
1987 September 15: Vignarajah, Assistant Government Agent, Sammanthurai
1986 May 6: TELO leader Shri Sabaratnam in Kondavil Jaffna
1986 September 26: Kathiramalai, Sarvodaya leader
1986 March 11: P. Kirubakaram , Primary Court Judge
1985 September 2: Alalasunderam, ex-TULF MP for Kopay
1985 September 2: V. Dharmalingam, ex-TULF MP for Manipay and father of D. Siddharthan, Leader of PLOTE

1985 August 22: P. Thambipillai, president, Citizen’s Committee Oddusudan
1985 June 26: C.E.Anandarajah, Principal St. John’s College, Jaffna.
1985 February 24: Gnanachandiram, ex District Judge, Point Pedro and Government Agent, Mullaitivu
1983 September 1: Mala Ramachandran, UNP MMC for Batticoloa
1983 August 12: A.J. Rajasooriya, UNP organizer for Jaffna
1983 January 19: K.T. Pulendran, UNP organizer for Vavuniya
1981 May 25: Member of Parliament of the Vaddukoddai electorate A. Thiyagaraja
1975 July 27: Jaffna Mayor, Alfred Duraiappah.

Targeted Civilian Massacres

2009 April 22: Sixteen civilians were killed in Karametiyawa, Inginiyagala.
2008 February 03: At least seven people died and 97 were injured in a suicide bomb attack at the Fort Railway station.

Central Bank blast

2008 June 06: Twenty one passengers died in a claymore attack on a bus in Katubedda Moratuwa.
2008 April 25: Twenty four civilians were killed in a parcel bomb explosion inside a bus in Pliyandala
2008 January 16: Twenty seven passengers perished in an attack on a bus in Buttala.
2007 November 28: Seventeen civilians were killed and 37 injured in a parcel bomb explosion at a Nugegoda shop.
2007 January 06: Fifteen civilians were killed and 40 wounded in a parcel bomb explosion inside a bus at Seenigama, near the Kahawa junction, Galle.
2006 July 15: Sixty seven passengers were killed and 90 injured in a claymore mine attack on a bus in Kebithigollewa.
2006 April 23: Six farmers were killed in the Polonnaruwa district
2006 May 29: Thirteen labourers were killed in the Polonnaruwa district
2001 July 24: Attack on the Bandaranaike International Air Port. Twelve people died and 13 aircraft destroyed.
2000 October 5: At least 12 persons were killed and more than 40 wounded when an LTTE suicide bomber blew himself up in an attempt to enter a PA election rally.
2000 March 10: At least 14 civilians and six police personnel were killed and 46 people were injured when a group of five suicide cadres attacked a motorcade on the road to Parliament at Rajagiriya.
2000 January 5: A female suicide bomber exploded herself while she was being body searched by Police near the Prime Minister’s Office in Colombo. Thirteen civilians and three police officers were killed and 27 people wounded in the blast.

Piliyandala bus blast

1999 December 18: A suicide bomber, detonates a bomb strapped to his body, killing retired Major General Lakshman Algama and 11 persons at a United National Party (UNP) election rally at Ja-Ela in Colombo.
1999 September 18: Fifty civilians were killed in an attack in Gonagala.
1998 March 5: Thirty-six civilians and two police officers were killed and 270 civilians wounded when a mini-bus, filled with explosives, was blown up by a suicide bomber near the Maradana Police Station in Colombo.
1998 February 23: At least 51 troops and 28 civilians were killed in a suicide attack on the Point Pedro coast when eight Tiger boats laden with explosives crashed into two navy ships.

1998 January 25: A suicide bomber blasted a lorry-laden with explosives at the Dalada Maligawa. Sixteen persons were killed while extensive damage was caused to the Maligawa, a cultural heritage site recognised by the UNESCO.

1997 October 15: Suicide bombers detonated a truck packed with explosives in the parking lot at Galadari Hotel close to the World Trade Center in Colombo, killing 18 people and injuring at least 110 others.
1996 July 24: Bomb explosion on Colombo-Alutgama train at Dehiwala killed 60 civilians.
1996 April 18: The naval wing of the LTTE, Sea Tigers, launched a suicide raid on the port of Colombo. Nine LTTE cadres were killed when the troops blew up their boats.

1996 January 31: A suicide bomber detonated a truck loaded with more than 100 kilograms of explosives in front of the Central Bank in Colombo killing 91 people and wounding at least 1,400 others.
1995 November 24: Sixteen civilians were killed and over 50 injured when two women suicide cadres targeted the Army headquarters.

1995 November 11: Seven persons including 15 children were killed when a female suicide bomber exploded herself near the Kompannaveediya Railway Station in Colombo.
1995 October 26: Twenty six villagers were killed in Kebithigollewa.
1995 October 21: Sixty six villagers were killed in attacks in Ampara, Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura.
1995 August 7: A male suicide bomber set off a cartload of explosives at Independence Square in Colombo, killing 22 people and injuring more than 40 others.
1995 May 25: Forty two civilians were massacred in Kallarawa.
1992 October 15: Massacre of 146 Muslim civilians in Palliyagodella.
1992 April 29: Some 130 Muslim civilians were massacred in the Alanchipothana village in the east.
1990 August 3: An LTTE gang killed 103 civilians in Kathankudy.
1987 July 02: The massacre of 32 Buddhist monks at Aranthalawa.
1987 April 21: One hundred and fourteen civilians killed in a bomb explosion near the Pettah bus stand in Colombo

1986 May 30: An explosion at Ceylon Cold Stores in Kompannaveediya killed eight civilians and wounded 22.

1985 May 14: The LTTE carried out an attack on the Jaya Shri Maha Bodhiya in Anuradhapura, killing 120 civilians. The attackers while they were fleeing also killed 18 civilians in Wilpattu.
1984 Nov. 30: Sixty two civilians were killed in attacks on the Dollar and Kent Farms
1976 July 02: A fuel station manager, S. Nadaraja, was shot dead as he was believed to be an army informant.


Attacks on India and China

Former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi

2003 March 20: Attack and capture of Chinese “Shu- Yun” trawler- 20 of the ship-crew died. 1991 May 21: Former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and 17 Indians were killed in South India.

1987 -1990: More than 1,000 Indian Peace Keeping soldiers died in northern and eastern provinces of Sri Lanka.

1984: Forty passengers were killed in bomb explosion at the Chennai airport.

Assassinations of Sri Lankan Leaders

In many of these attacks a large number of civilians were also killed. 2008 October 06: More than 25 civilians, including Maj Gen Janaka Perera, were killed in an LTTE suicide bomb attack in Anuradhapura
2008 April 06: Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle and 12 others were killed in an LTTE suicide bomb attack in Weliweriya.

Janaka Perera Jeyaraj Fernandopulle Gamini Dissanayake Ranjan Wijeratne R Premadasa

2000 June 7: A suicide bomber killed Minister C. V. Gooneratne and 24 civilians whilst he was in a procession organised to mark ‘war heroes’ day at Golumadama Junction in Ratmalana.

1995 May 26: The chief incumbent of the Dimbualagala temple Ven Kithalagama Shri Seelalankara thera was killed.

1994 October 24: Opposition leader and United National Party presidential candidate Gamini Dissanayake and 58 persons, including several senior politicians, were killed by a female suicide bomber at Thotalanga in Colombo.

1993 May 1: President Ranasinghe Premadasa and 23 others were killed by a suicide bomber in Colombo.

1991 May21: A female suicide bomber killed India’s former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi while he visited the southern Tamil Nadu state for an election rally at Sriperumputhur.

1991 March 2: Deputy Defence Minister Ranjan Wijeratne and 18 people were killed in a blast at Havelock Road in Colombo.

Failed Assassination Attempts with Civilian Casualties

2009 March 10: Minister Mahinda Wijesekara was seriously injured in a suicide bomb attack at the National Meelad Festival in Akuressa. Ten civilians were killed and 60 others wounded in the blast.
2008 October 09: Minister Maithripala Sirisena survived an LTTE suicide attack at Katuwawala in Piliyandala, but five civilians died.

Bomb blast attempted at Army Commander
Piththala Handiya blast aimed at Gotabhaya Rajapaksa
Pannipitiya blast which killed Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army, Major General Parami Kulathunga

2007 January 28: A female LTTE suicide bomber targeting Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) leader and Social Services Minister Douglas Devananda blew herself up. The minister escaped but the blast killed his Public Relations Officer.

2006 December 01: Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa escaped an LTTE suicide attack in which six people, including his bodyguards, were killed.

2006 August 14: In a suicide blast targeting the then Pakistani High Commissioner Bashir Wali Mohammad seven people died.

2006 April 25: Army Commander Sarath Fonseka was wounded in a suicide blast inside the Army headquarters. The attack was carried out by an LTTE female cadre who posed off as a pregnant woman. Nine people, including civilians, were killed.

2001 October 29: Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake escaped an assassination attempt when police intercepted a would-be suicide bomber who detonated explosives strapped to his body, killing himself and five others.

2004 July 07: In Colombo, five policemen were killed when a suspected LTTE woman suicide bomber blew herself up inside the Kollupitiya police station after she was arrested at Minister Douglas Devananda’s office.

2000 September 15: Seven people were killed and 28 others sustained injuries when a suicide bomber, on being detected, blew himself up. Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva had a narrow escape as he had passed through the site barely seven minutes before the blast.

December 18, 1999: President Chandrika Kumaratunga was wounded and 21 were killed and more than 100 people injured at a presidential election campaign rally in Town Hall, Colombo.

1997 December 28: Three suicide bombers died when their truck exploded half a mile from the Magalle naval base in the Galle District where Navy Commander Cecil Tissera was staying. Ten shops and two houses were damaged.

1996 July 4: At least 20 people, including Jaffna military commander Brig. Ananda Hamangoda, were killed and 60 injured when a female suicide bomber blew herself up. Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva escaped with minor injuries.

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From Al Jazeera:

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have confirmed their leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, has been killed.

“We announce today, with inexpressible sadness and heavy hearts that our incomparable leader and supreme commander … attained martyrdom fighting the military oppression,” Selvarasa Pathmanathan, the LTTE’s head of international relations, said in a statement on Sunday.

The Tigers said Prabhakaran had been killed on Tuesday during fighting between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan military and declared a week of mourning.

Previously, on the 19th of May, the same individual (Selvarasa Pathmanathan) had stated “Our beloved leader is alive and safe. He will continue to lead the quest for dignity and freedom for the Tamil people,” in a statement carried on the pro-terror Tamilnet website.

Selvarasa Pathmanathan (also known as KP) is wanted by interpol for terrorism and weapons smuggling and is the only surviving member of the LTTE “higher level” operatives.

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I spent the first 20 years of my life in Sri Lanka. I have never known a day that the country was truly peaceful. I grew up hearing regular reports of suicide, train and bus bombings, attacks on places of worship, attacks on the airport and even innocent farmers and civilians being hacked to death. Every day I pray asking selfishly for my family to be spared.

Those responsible: The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (commonly known as the Tamil Tigers in the west), fighting for a separate state, once planned to cover more than a quarter of the small island nation below India.

Poor political maneuvers and governance by the Sri Lankan governments from the 1950s to the 1970s led to the Tamil people feeling that they were being discriminated against. Concerns were largely a result of language use (1956 Sinhala becomes only official language) and a standardization system (1970) (kind of an affirmative action scheme) for university entrance (which dictated a number of students from each region who would be admitted). The standardization meant that high achievers in areas like Jaffna in Northern Sri Lanka found it significantly more difficult to get into universities than they had in the past. A similar quota system was introduced for employment in the public sector.

The Tamil Tigers took their first breath in 1976 with the fatal Vaddukodai Resolution which stated that the Tamil people could only have their rights restored through a separate state (known as eelam).

Constitutional changes implemented after 1977 largely restored the previous grievances of the Tamil people. The education policies of 1970 were undone and free textbooks in both Tamil and Sinhalese were introduced. The militant Tamil groups that arose from 1976 however were not satisfied with the changes and saw a separate state as the only alternative.

Another major factor was the perceived lack of action by successive governments to quickly address communal riots. The most significant of these was after a deadly attack by the LTTE in the North which killed 13 soldiers in 1983 which spawned riots and massacres in the South of the country.

Nearly three decades later, the North and East of the country lies in shambles.  Almost 200,000 people are homeless, starving or fighting sickness. The country’s economy once seen as one of the most promising in Asia has been destroyed by defense budgets to fight a war that has refused to die. The people of both the South and the North are tormented by memories of loved ones lost to war, suicide bombings and brutal murder by the rebels. The systematic campaign by the Tamil Tigers to suppress all other Tamil voices other than their own has left the Tamil people with no moderate leadership. Rajiv Gandhi, the popular 9th Prime Minister of India is dead, assassinated by the LTTE. Ranasinghe Premadasa the Sri Lankan president and hundreds of others have lost their lives to a campaign that seemed to quickly forget the reasons that it took up arms in the first place. Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga, is partially blinded by an attempt on her life.  Many great leaders all lie in their graves, bearing witness to the meaninglessness of war.

In the news today, we hear that the leadership of the Tamil Tigers has been destroyed. Tamil Tiger supremo Veluppilai Prabakaran, his son Charles Anthony, feared Tiger Intelligence head Pottu Amman, and head of the Tiger “Navy” Soosai all lie dead after being shot while trying to escape from the Sri Lankan military. Even the head of the political division of the LTTE is no more.

What then has three decades of a reign of terror in Sri Lanka achieved?

In the words of Selvaraja Padmanathan, a spokesman for the Tamil Tigers:

“I believe that over the 38 years we fight and only the civilian and human life are every day dying. The…in another 30 years will continue we don’t believe that – we believe in peaceful way for solution for Tamil people.”

The true result of the long-drawn conflict is a deep rooted communal distrust which will be very difficult to erase. Civilians are used to looking at each person or piece of luggage in a bus suspiciously to make sure they are not suicide attackers or bombs.

It’s unfortunate that it has taken this long for the separatists to realize that armed conflict does not resolve anything.

The government now has a tough job on their hands:

– Maintain peace and stability

– Create equitable economic development in the country in a way that does not leave room for the type of discontent that spawned the LTTE

– Most importantly, find ways to bridge the differences between the Tamil civilians in the north of the country and those in the south and build trust.

It will still be a while before the people in Sri Lanka stop praying for their families: please take care of my family.

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Sri Lanka - Sigiral Archeological SiteThere was singing and dancing in the streets in Sri Lanka as President Mahinda Rajapaksha declared victory over the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) who have run a brutal campaign of terror in the country over the last three decades. A body believed to be that of Veluppillai Prabakaran, the leader and founder of the LTTE was recovered and is being checked for authenticity. He had previously sworn that he would kill himself rather than be captured.

The LTTE was known for the brutality of their attacks and the FBI had previously branded them as the deadliest terrorist organization in the world. The defeated rebels are credited by the FBI for:

  • Perfecting the use of suicide bombers;
  • Inventing the suicide belt;
  • Pioneering the use of women in suicide attacks;
  • Murdering thousands of people ; and
  • Assassinating two world leaders—the only terrorist organization to do so.

The separatists are believed to be responsible for taking over 70,000 lives both directly and indirectly.  It was widely expected that Monday would be declared a national holiday in Sri Lanka as the remaining pocket of fighting in a 400 m x 600 m area dies down.

As Asia’s longest running conflict ends, the government will be looking to spur significant economic growth in the country, a goal that could be realized if peace and stability can be maintained. I hope the international community will extend their support to the country, now that terrorism has been eradicated. Hillary Clinton in the US had previously tried to stop an IMF loan to the island nation citing that civilians in the war torn region were still in danger. Now that all civilians (~150,000 in total) have been rescued, I hope the US and UK will back Sri Lanka in its quest to reconstruct  the north and east of the country and create economic development there. Any delays in extending aid to the region will only extend the pain and suffering of the civilians who were previously displaced by the fighting. The Sri Lankan people are grateful to China, Russia, Japan and others who stood behind the country during its darkest hour as it battled terrorism successfully.

Picture Above: The Sigiriya Archeological Site in Sri Lanka

Srti Lankan Unity

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The BBC has been criticized for at times carrying what many believed to be one-sided views of the Sri Lankan conflict. Allegedly, influenced by writers within the organization with links to the Tigers or to the Tamil community, some of whom are sympathetic to the LTTE cause.

Today however Swaminathan Natarajan of the BBC’s Tamil service has published an account based on an actual conversation with a civilian who escaped the LTTE in the conflict zone in Sri Lanka’s North. For this I am grateful to the author and to the BBC. The article clearly describes the repeated attempts by the civilians to escape LTTE custody over the last month.

Full article here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8013016.stm

Selected quotes:

“The LTTE had built a bund and because of that structure it was difficult to move. People had to walk through neck-deep water.

Some children fell down in the water. It was difficult to cross that area. I don’t know how to describe that.

We were trying to escape for the past month. We packed a few of our belongings and tried to escape at an opportune moment.

But we were prevented by the LTTE from escaping from the area.”

“In the LTTE-controlled areas life is very difficult. There is a huge shortage of food. There is heavy fighting and many are dying every day. Some days it is difficult to get a single meal. So we planned to escape to the government-controlled areas.

We were not bothered to take any of our belongings. We made three attempts in one month to escape but all of them were thwarted by the LTTE.

Now we have come to safety.”

“There has been no proper food for the past three days. Yesterday afternoon we got something to eat. Today, only in the late afternoon, we got food. But the amount is very little. We three shared a single meal.

I have not been given any clothes. So I am still wearing a dress which got wet and is covered by mud and dirt. I have not taken a bath for the past three days. It is very difficult here. My husband’s bandage needs to be changed immediately.”

Let’s hope the international community and the government get together to quickly clothe and feed these people who have gone through unimaginable torture over the last few months and still endure severe hardship.

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Some positive news from the Sri Lankan conflict, looks like we are getting closer to an end. Hopefully once terrorism is dealt with, the government will do the right thing and make sure that rights of all people are protected. They do seem to be at least trying in the Eastern province where a former child soldier of the LTTE is now the Chief Minister and the democratic process has been reinstated with elections held.

35,000 civilians that were being held within the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) controlled strip of land in Northern Sri Lanka have escaped and made there way into government held territory. There are reports of suicide bombings during the civilian exodus, killing at least 17 people.

The government announced it would allow 24 hours for the remaining terrorists to surrender before launching its final offensive.

An estimated 40,000 civilians are still being held hostage within the LTTE territory as a human shield by a largely outnumbered and depleted Tiger force.

Meanwhile, LTTE supporters in London blocked roads around the Parliament demanding the UK extend support that could protect the last of the banned group, fighting in Sri Lanka. In a show of defiance, the supporters were seen carrying the LTTE flag which features a tiger jumping through a ring of fire and two crossed rifles.

The LTTE is a banned terrorist organization in 32 countries including the UK, US, India, Canada, Australia and many areas of Europe and is known for its indiscriminate use of suicide bombers and for targeting civilians. They have the distinction of being the organization that started the modern practice of suicide bombing (inventor of the suicide jacket), and have carried out more suicide attacks than any other group. They also frequently use child soldiers and have committed horrific crimes against civilians.

ltte-in-london

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