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14 Aug 2006: 53 Tamil school girls killed by Sri Lankan air strike on children's home

On 14th August 2006, fifty-three Tamil school girls and 3 staff members were killed, and over 150 injured, when four Sri Lankan Air Force jets flew over the Vanni, dropping sixteen bombs over the Sencholai children's home in Vallipuram for orphaned girls.

In a macabre warning of the attacks against hospitals within the designated 'No Fire Zones' in 2009, the Sencholai attack took place despite the Sencholai's GPS coordinates being given to the Sri Lankan military via UNICEF and the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC), in order to protect it as a humanitarian zone.

See a list of the victims at the end of this article and their photos here.

Also see a survivor’s account of the airstrike here, and photos of the aftermath here and here.

Sri Lankan government defends killing of children

The Sri Lankan government was swift to claim that all the girls who were massacred were "terrorists" at a "training camp" of the LTTE - a claim which was categorically rejected by UNICEF and international ceasefire monitors of the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission (SLMM).

The Sri Lanka's Inspector General of Police, Chandra Fernando, claimed at the time that three girls who were admitted to hospital with injuries "told Police that the place was not an orphanage."

The Sri Lankan news site, the Daily News reported:

'The Government and Security Forces denied the LTTE's claim and emphasised that it was a military training camp used by the LTTE to train hundreds of youth and the target was taken after compiling enough evidence to prove it was an LTTE military camp.'

Defending the killing of the children, the Sri Lankan military's spokesperson, Brigadier Athula Jayawardana said two days after the air strike: "if the children are terrorists, what can we do?"

Echoing his statement, the government spokesperson, Keheliya Rambukwella, added:

"Even it is a 17-year-old child in terms of age, they are soldiers who are prepared to kill whoever comes in front of them."

"Therefore the age or the gender is not what is important."

Unsurprisingly, in 2010, a Presidential Commission of Inquiry, led by a former Supreme Court Judge, Nissanka Udalagama, cleared the Air Force of any violations of law.

Reiterating the stance of the military and government, the inquiry concluded the children's home was a LTTE training camp, and blamed the LTTE for "indirectly causing the deaths".

Children were innocent say international witnesses

However, the allegation that the children's home was an LTTE training camp was categorically disputed by international aid workers and ceasefire monitors in the area at the time.

In a statement, Ann M. Veneman, Executive Director of UNICEF said: "These children are innocent victims of violence,"

“We call on all parties to respect international humanitarian law and ensure children and the places where they live, study and play are protected from harm," she added.

UNICEF's Colombo chief, Joanna Van Gerpen told the BBC:

"As of this time, we don't have any evidence that they are LTTE cadres. From what we understand at this point, these children were from surrounding communities."

"We did see more than 100 [wounded] in the local hospitals, some with loss of limbs, head and shrapnel injuries."

The SLMM monitors said they found at least 10 bomb craters and an unexploded bomb at the site.

The Head of the SLMM, Ulf Henricsson said:

We couldn’t find any sign of military installations or weapons. … This was not a military installation, we can see [that].

The Swiss government described the bombing as “an outrage.”

Despite such unanimous consensus that the attack was targeted at an orphanage during the ceasefire, the IRCR and the Co-Chairs of the peace process - US, Japan, EU and Norway - did not condemn the attack.
Nine years on, as the OHCHR Investigation in Sri Lanka (OISL) is set to release its inquiry into mass atrocities on the island between 2002 and 2011, the families of the children who were massacres still await justice.

See a full list of all those killed below.

School: Puthukkudiyiruppu Mahavidhyalayam

Thambirasa Lakiya DOB: 26-03-89, Mullivaikal west
Mahalingam Vensidiyoola DOB: 07-10-89, Mullivaikal west
Thuraisingam Sutharsini DOB: 28-07-89, Ward 10, PKT

School: Visuvamadu Mahavidhyalayam

Nagalingam Theepa DOB: 29-03-87, Puthadi, Visuvamadu
Thambirasa Theepa DOB: 07-02-87, Valluvarpuram, Redbarna
Thirunavukkarasu Niranjini DOB: 29-11-88, Puthadi, Visuvamadu
Raveenthirarasa Ramya DOB: 14-11-88, Thoddiyadi, V. madu
Kanapathipillai Nanthini DOB: 05-10-88, Koddiyadi, Visuvamadu
Vijayabavan Sinthuja DOB: 24-05-88, Koddiyadi, Visuvamadu
Naguleswaran Nishanthini DOB: 11-04-89, Thoddiyadi, V.madu
Tharmakulasingam Kemala DOB: 09-09-87, Kannakinagar,
Arulampalam Yasothini DBO: 18-01-88, Puththadi, Visuvamadu

School: Udayarkaddu Mahavidhyalayam

Muthaih Indra DOB: 08-08-88, Suthanthirapuram centre
Murugaiah Arulselvi DOB: 14-07-88, Suthanthirapuram centre
Sivamoorthy Karthikayini DOB: 13-02-88, Vallipunam
Santhanam Sathyakala DOB: 20-08-86, Vallipunam
Kanagalingam Nirupa DOB: 11-02-89, Visuvamadu
Kanagalingam Nirusa DOB: 11-02-89, Vallipunam
Navaratnam Santhakumari DOB: 28-05-88, Kaiveli
Nagalingam Kokila DOB: 12-02-87, Vallipunam
Sivamayajeyam Kokila DOB: Kuravil
Shanmugarasa Paventhini DOB:
Balakrishnan Mathani DOB: 09-05-88, Vallipunam

School: Mullaitivu Mahavidhyalayam

Sivanantham Thivya DOB: 30-05-88, Vannankulam
Thambirasa Suganthini DOB: 18-02-88, Alampil,
S Vathsalamary DOB: 20-11-86, Manatkudiyiruppu
Thanabalasingam Bakeerathy DOB: 03-02-87, Mullivaikal west
Thanikasalam Thanusa DOB: 02-12-87, Kallappadu
Pathmanathan Kalaipriya DOB: 23-09-88, Kovilkudiyiruppu
Markupillai Kelansuthayini DOB: 14-07-88, Vannankulam
Rasamohan Hamsana DOB: 29-05-87, Alampil

School: Kumulamunai Mahavidhyalayam

Vivekanantham Thadchayini DOB: 31-01-88, W 10, PTK
Santhakumar Sukirtha DOB: 08-08-87, Ward 7, Kumulamunai
Uthayakumaran Kousika DOB: 22-08-87, Kumulamunai
Nallapillai Ninthija DOB: 03-03-88, Ward 6, Kumulamunai
Veerasingam Rajitha DOB: 28-02-88, Ward 5, Kumulamunai

School: Vidhyananda College, Mulliyavalai

Thamilvasan Nivethika DOB: 02-12-88, Ward 2, Mulliyavalai
Suntharam Anoja DOB: 12-09-89, Kumulamunai
Puvanasekaram Puvaneswari DOB: 06-06-89, W 4, Mulliyavalai
Kiritharan Thayani DOB: 28-12-89, Thannerutru, Mulliyavalai

School: Chemmalai Mahavidhyalayam

Mahalingam Vasantharani DOB: 23-03-88, Alampil, Chemmalai
Thuraisingam Thisani DOB: 06-12-88, Alampil, Chemmalai
Vairavamoorthy Kirithika DOB: 12-07-87, Alampil, Chemmalai
Chandramohan Nivethika DOB: 04-01-89, Alampil, Chemmalai

School: Oddusuddan Mahavidhyalayam

Sellam Nirojini DOB: Koolamurippu, Oddusuddan 

School: Muruhananda Mahavidhyalayam

Tharmarasa Brintha DOB: 06-01-89, 189/1 Visuvamadu
Thevarasa Sharmini DOB: 09-03-89, 90, Periyakulam, Kandavalai

School: Tharmapuram Mahavidhyalayam

Varatharaja Mangaleswari DOB: 24-07-89, 577, 13 U, T.puram
Rasenthiraselvam Mahilvathani DOB: 04-12-88, Tharmapuram
Nilayinar Nivakini DOB: 04-04-89, Kaddakkadu, Tharmapuram

School: Piramanthanaru Mahavidhyalayam

Kubenthiraselvam Lihitha DOB: 05-02-87, Kalaveddithidal, Puliyampokanai

Names of staff killed

Chandrasekaran Vijayakumari (Age 27)
Kandasamy Kumarasamy (Age 48)
Solomon Singarasa (Age 65)
S Jeyarubi (Age 20)