CHRONOLOGY OF LTTE TERROR - Part 6
From the Daily News Archives:
Carnage at Habarana LTTE kills over 100
When the euphoria of victory dies down, and
together with it the media hype ceases,
when the guns do not rattle and boom anymore,
and the sky, the land and the sea become calm and serene, when
tranquillity reigns through it is natural to live in the present moment
and forget the past.
But one cannot live in the present without a
past. Nor can one envision the future discarding the experience of the
preceding events. Hence the Daily News is serialising the Chronicle of
LTTE Terror taken from our own archives which would remind our readers
how it all began.
An awareness of the chronology of terror would
help us prevent the recurrence of such terror and frustrate any attempts
by misguided elements to repeat history to suit their evil designs.
It was not simple terror. Nor was terror
sporadic. It was all pre-planned, pre-determined, well-calculated
terror. The victims were innocent people. Though it is too many
innumerate we would like to recall the major episodes in the Chronology
One of the blackest episodes in the separatist war occurred on Good
Friday 1987 when over 100 bus passengers were mowed down by LTTE machine
gun fire near Kitulottuwa on the Trincomalee Habarana road.
The victims belonging to all communities were shot dead in cold
blood, demonstrating the barbaric nature of the LTTE even during the
early days of the separatist war.
A survivor breaks down
The carnage shocked the entire nation and marked fist instance where
innocent defenceless bus passengers became targets of Tiger brutality.
This was also believed to the first calculated mass civilian attack
carried out by the Tigers, for most of the passengers were journeying
after the Sinhala New year festivities, where crowds in buses were more
than at normal times.
The attack was widely believed to have been carried out by well known
LTTE hitman Pullendran who led many a massacre on unprotected villages
bordering the North and East.
According to a military spokesman a total of 107 persons including
women and children were wiped out in one of the worst massacres carried
out by the LTTE in it’s blood splattered history. Sixty others were
injured most of them in a critical state.
The passengers were travelling in three buses when the terrorist laid
their ambush at a point on the lonely stretch between the 123rd and
129th mile post of the Trincomalee-Habarana road.
“They stopped the buses lined up the passengers and mowed them down.
It was terrible bushiness,” the spokesman said. He said two of the buses
were coming from Trincomalee and one going in the other direction.
There was no clear information if the buses belonged to the CTB or
private coaches or both. Another report said that a fourth vehicle - a
private car had also been stopped and the people in it killed. This was
later confirmed by a police report.
It was later revealed that all three vehicles were private buses some
carrying passengers from Colombo to Trincomalee .A number of victims
were people travelling at the end of the New Year holiday. First reports
received on the attack claimed that between 50 to sixty persons were
killed, the majority of them Sinhalese.
The casualties were moved to Habarana and some to Anuradhapura. At
least two Helicopters were deployed for the task and a AirForce Avro too
pressed into service. Initially heavy rains hampered the removal of dead
bodies and the transfer of casualties.
The attack came on the seventh day of the unilateral ceasefire
announced by the Government.
The Habarana-Trincomalee road is a desolate stretch wending it’s way
through thick forests with an eerie backdrop.
It is the main supply route to the East but journeying though the
starkly lonely passage had been a risky affair even at the best of
times, according to military sources. It was certainly not a proposition
for pleasure journeys. The buses are for most part over crowded and one
is compelled to endure discomfiture because the journey had to be made.
The bus to Trincomalee from Kandy that fateful Friday on the 17th was
no exception. There were 113 passengers in it most of whom perished
under hail of LTTE gun fire.
Evidence of what happened minutes before the massacre were later
recounted by the very few survivors some of whom feigned death to escape
the LTTE butchery.
It appeared that the bus was flagged down at the 124 th mile post,
seventeen miles from Habarana, by persons donned in army uniform.
According to the only two survivors to help the authorities at the
Habarana Hospital Nimal Jayatissa and Shantha Ranasinghe the attackers
dressed in military fatigues after stopping their bus demanded money and
valuables from the passengers.
It was then that it dawned on them that these were terrorists. Their
escape from the hail of machine gun fire which turned the bus in which
they were travelling into a charnel house was nothing short of a
Looking on in distress
After the first burst of automatic rifle fire, the killers trod over
the dead and the dying shooting all who moved. They did not spare the
old, feeble and even children.
“When they started shooting I threw myself on the floor of the bus
and in seconds bodies fell over me. I held a little girl close to me and
she too escaped,” Jayatissa said when interviewed by the Daily News.
According to him after the first round of firing the killers probed
the bodies on the floor with their boots for any signs of life.
“I kept my mouth open, dribbling spittle hoping the man would go
away. He pulled me up by the head and I went limp. He went away. A few
minutes later Jayatissa said he raised his head and heard a young girl
telling him that she too was alive.
“I daubed her face in blood and told her to pretend she was dead-I am
sure she was killed the next time they returned,” he said recounting his
Jayatissa remained motionless till a few minutes later - it seemed
like hours - he heard more shooting.
This was when the army arrived and realising this, he rushed out of
Sarath Ranasinghe’s story was much the same. Both men were in the
forefront of the first aid measures the authorities began soon after the
Jayatissa himself was a Red Cross worker based at Bisa Bandara, in
Medirigiriya. Ranasinghe was a timber contractor from Kantalai.
Their’s was a tale of unspeakable horror tinged with poignant
recollection of the ordeal they were forced to undergo and to be
fortunate to be alive to recount to the world one of the most barbaric
and inhuman acts one could ever imagine of man’s inhumanity to man,
perpetrated by the most ruthless terrorist organisation in the world.
Three buses waylaid on Habarana-Trinco Road:
Terrorists massacre over 100 civilians
“Over a hundred bus passengers believed to belong to all communities
were killed yesterday in the worst terrorist massacre in recent months
when three buses travelling along the Habarana-Trincomalee road were
stopped near Kitulotuwa between the 123rd and 129th milepost and the
passengers shot dead in cold blood.
A military spokesman said last night that 107 persons including women
and children were dead and over 60 injured. “They stopped the buses,
lined-up the passengers and mowed them down. It was a terrible
business,” the spokesman said.
He said that two of the buses were coming from Trincomalee and one
going there. There was no clear information on whether the vehicles
belonged to the CTB or were private coaches or both.
But a later police report said that all three vehicles were private
buses, some carrying passengers from Colombo to Trincomalee.
Another report said that a fourth vehicle - a private car - had also
been stopped and the people in it killed. This was confirmed by a police
The spokesman said that the casualties had been moved to Habarana and
some to Anuradhapura. At least two helicopters were deployed for this
work and the Air Force Avro too was pressed into service. “Everything
that can be done is being done. It’s been raining and this hampered the
rescue effort,” the spokesman said.
The first report received by the authorities in Colombo said that
between 50 to 60 persons had been killed, the majority of them being
Sinhalese. The attack came on the seventh day of the unilateral
ceasefire announced by Government.
A number of the victims were believed to be people travelling at the
end of the New Year holiday.”
TOMORROW - Desecration at Arantalawa
Yal Devi train