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No war crime questions, Lankan general returns from US

IANS
Nov 05, 2009 at 05:52pm IST

Colombo: General Sarath Fonseka, who was Sri Lanka's army commander when it defeated Tamil separatist rebels in May, returned home from US on Thursday without being questioned by US authorities about alleged war crimes.

Fonseka, who is now chief of the defence staff, was on a private visit to the US to visit his daughters when the US Department of Homeland Security asked him to present himself for an interview on Wednesday in Oklahoma City.

It was believed the questioning concerned suspected human rights abuses committed during the final campaign against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

PAST TENSE: The Lankan government and the rebels have been accused of human rights abuses.

Sri Lanka feared that Fonseka would be asked to provide evidence against Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa on alleged war crimes.

Rajapaksa is the younger brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The defence minister is a naturalised US citizen.

The top military officer was driven away from Bandaranaike International Airport amid tight security immediately after his arrival. He did not comment on the US interview request.

The Foreign Ministry in Colombo said on Wednesday that Fonseka was not subjected to any questioning by any US agency before his departure.

News of the requested interview prompted Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama to ask the US ambassador in Colombo, Patricia Butenis, to desist from questioning Fonseka. A similar request was made to the US State Department.

Last month, the State Department released a report accusing both the government and rebels of human rights abuses during the final five months of the military operations against the Tamil rebels, which ended a 26-year civil war. They included killings of civilians.

More than 6,700 civilians were killed from January to May and more than 15,000 injured, the report said, but Sri Lanka's government said the report did not substantiate its claims.

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