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Digging Ordered in Sri Lanka

April 2, 1999

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ A magistrate cleared the way today for digging to begin at a site in northern Sri Lanka where government soldiers allegedly killed and buried hundreds of ethnic Tamils.

Excavation at the site in the northern Jaffna peninsula will be carried out June 6, nearly one year after a soldier first made the allegation, said senior state counsel Yasantha Kodagoda.

Magistrate N. Arulsaharam set the date after examining a report by the Criminal Investigation Department on soil tests conducted last month. Kodagoda refused to discuss the report.

The soldier, whose name has not been released, said he knew at least 400 bodies of Tamils were buried in mass graves near Jaffna city. He has been convicted of raping and murdering a Tamil teen-ager.

Arulsaharam traveled last month from Colombo to Jaffna, 186 miles north of the capital, to begin the investigation. Local courts had given up the case following a threat to the judges by the main Tamil rebel group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

The Tigers, fighting for a separate homeland for minority Tamils since 1983, said they had no faith in the Sri Lankan judicial system and demanded an international group probe the allegation.

Tamil Tiger rebels seized Jaffna in 1990 and governed more than one million people in their territory until the army recaptured the city in 1996.

The Tigers accuse the majority million Sinhalese of widespread discrimination in education and jobs, a charge the government denies. Over 57,000 people have been killed since 1983.

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