|Kattankudi mosque massacre|
|Location||Kattankudi, Batticaloa, Sri Lanka|
August 3, 1990 |
7.30 PM (+6 GMT)
|Attack type||Armed massacre|
|Weapon(s)||Automatics rifles, hand grenades|
|Perpetrators||Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam|
The Kattankudi mosque massacre was the killing of over 147 Muslim men and boys in a mosque in Kattankudi by LTTE cadres on August 3, 1990. It took place when around 30 Tamil rebels raided four mosques in the town of Kattankudi, where over 300 people were prostrate in Isha prayers. The attack is widely attributed to LTTE, who denied their involvement in the massacre, and have never retracted that denial.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, is a militant rebel organization which had been fighting Sri Lanka since 1975 in order to establish a separate state in the North and East of the country. After intermittent conflict throughout the 1980s, peace talks began in 1989 to bring about a negotiated settlement to the conflict. However the talks eventually broke down, and the LTTE broke the 13-month ceasefire on June 11, attacking numerous government targets such as Police stations. They also began attacking Muslim villages, and burning their shops and homes, suspecting them of supporting the government. On July 24, Tamil Tiger cadres murdered four Muslims at a mosque in the Batticaloa District. On July 29, Tiger cadres killed 10 worshipers in Samanthurai, 25 miles east of the town of Batticaloa.
In August 1990, they issued a warning to the citizens of Katthankudi, a majority Muslim town 140 miles east of Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka. The warning stated that they should vacate the town "or face death". At the time, of the 60,000 residents of the relatively prosperous Kattankudi, 90 per cent were Muslim.
On August 3, around 30 heavily armed Tamil rebels crossed a lagoon and entered the town of Kattankudi. At around 8.10PM, they entered the Meer Jumma, Husseinia, Majid-Jul-Noor and Fowzie Mosques, where hundreds of devotees were attending Friday Isha prayers. The LTTE cadres were disguised as Muslims to avoid suspicion.
As the civilians knelt in prayer, the Tamil rebels attacked them, spraying automatic fire and hurling hand grenades at the worshipers. Most of the victims were shot in the back or side. The rebels fled as Sri Lankan soldiers, notified of the ongoing massacre, arrived at the scene.
Initial report put the death toll at around 100, but as many of the injured who were rushed to hospital succumbed to their injuries, the final death toll rose to over 147.
Eye witness accounts
"I was kneeling down and praying when the rebels started shooting. The firing went on for 15 minutes. I escaped without being hit and found myself among bodies all over the place."
Mohammed Arif, a 17-year-old student who also survived the massacre told the New York Times:
"Before I escaped from a side door and scaled a wall, I saw a Tiger rebel put a gun into the mouth of a small Muslim boy and pull the trigger."
Then Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa directed Sri Lanka Air Force helicopters to rush the injured to hospitals for urgent treatment. They continued to ferry the injured to hospitals throughout the next morning. Soon after the massacre, government troops launched an operation in the area to capture the killers. One of the helicopters involved in the search shot at two boat loads of LTTE rebels off the sea at Kattankudi. They were believed to be fleeing to India following the massacre. Casualties amongst the rebels were not confirmed.
The incident was the worst massacre of civilians since the resumption the conflict on June 11. All the victims were buried in a cemetery at the Meera Jumma Mosque, where mourners dug a long common grave for a row of coffins.
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Some notable massacres in the eastern province of Sri Lanka during the 1980s to late 1990s:
- Aranthalawa Massacre
- Gonagala massacre
- Gomarankadawala massacre
- Kallarawa massacre
- Kumarapuram massacre
- Mylanthanai massacre
- Tampalakamam massacre
- Kalmunai massacre
- Prawn farm massacre
- 1985 Valvettithurai massacre
- Xinhua, 147 Muslims Massacred by Tamil "Tigers" in Sri Lanka, Colombo, August 3, 1990
- Sri Lanka: The Northeast: Human rights violations in a context of armed conflict
- The New York Times, Tamils Kill 110 Muslims at 2 Sri Lankan Mosques, August 5, 1990
- The Times, Tamils kill 116 Muslims, August 13, 1990
- Associated Press, Tamil Rebels Order Muslims to Leave City, June 17, 1995
- Trawick, Margaret (1999). Enemy Lines: Warfare, Childhood, and Play in Batticaloa. University of California Press. pp. 205. ISBN 978-0520245150. OCLC 70866875.
- BBC News, Army to protect threatened eastern Muslim town, June 24, 1995