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Nagarkovil school bombing remembered 20 years on

A memorial was opened in remembrance of the children killed when their school was bombed by Sri Lanka’s air force in 1995.

Around 71 Tamil civilians were killed in bombing raids in the Nagarkovil area 20 years ago today, with 26 children killed at the site of the new memorial, which was opened in their former school, Nagarkovil Central School.

Chief Minister CV Wigneswaran opened the memorial earlier today, with several of the children’s relatives and TNA officials, including MP S Sritharan also in attendance.

The bombing, which happened during the presidency of Chandrika Kumaratunga, was widely condemned.

AP’s report at the time said:

“The bombing of the school happened at 12.50 p.m. during the school's lunch break when several of the school children were gathered under a shade tree in the school compound. 25 school going children were among 40 Tamil civilians killed on the spot. Twelve were six and seven year olds. Nearly 200 others were injured, most of them students in the same school. Elsewhere in the area, 15 other civilians were also killed in the course of the same bombing raids. The scene of the attack was visited by the International Red Cross. Pieces of human flesh were strewn around the area including the tree branches, making identification impossible.

The total death toll later increased to 71.

Earlier, on the same day, Pucara bombers targeted Manalkadu and Katkovalam in the Vadamardchi area killing six persons. A small Catholic church was also damaged in the bombing. In another incident in the early hours of the same day, intense shelling from the Palaly army camp killed seven members of the same family including four children of varying ages, The shelling began at 3.00 a.m. and continued until 7.00 a.m.

Medicines Sans Frontiers reported on 23 September that of 117 injured Tamil civilians admitted to hospital during the offensive on Thursday and Friday more than half had died from their wounds.

"In a new offensive against Tamil rebels, Sri Lankan warplanes have bombed civilian targets, killing at least 42 children, an international relief agency said Saturday. The rebels issued a statement from London saying 71 people had died in the bombing campaign Thursday and Friday in the northern Jaffna Peninsula, the stronghold of Tamils fighting for independence.

Under strict new censorship rules imposed by the Sri Lankan government on Thursday, no information about the offensive was allowed to be published in that country. The Doctors Without Borders (Medicine Sans Frontier) relief group released a statement in Paris saying about 200 people were wounded when bombs fell on a school near Point Pedro on the northern coast Friday.”

The British Refugee Council said press reports were heavily censored:

“Military sources first denied the attack then claimed Nagaroil was a Sea Tiger base where LTTE cadre had gathered to honour Tiger martyr Thileepan.. Six weeks earlier, Sri Lanka aircraft bombed civilians seeking refuge around Navaly Catholic church four miles west of Jaffna town killing 130 people and injuring 120...
Reports of the Nagarkoil bombing were heavily censored under the new restrictions.. Like Navaly, whether Nagarkoil was accidental or deliberate, air and artillery attacks on northern civilians will continue... Civilians are unidentifiable from the air - unless perhaps there are 750 of them all dressed in spotless white school uniforms."

The names and ages of the 26 students who died in the SLAF attack are:

Tharmalingam Usanthini (13), Markandu Nagalogini (10), Thamotharam Sakunthala (12), R. Regina (11), Pologarajah Thushanthini (14), Ravindran Amirtha (10), Balachandran Rajitha (10), Navaratnasamy Umathevy (12), Suntharalingam Palani (15), Suntharalingam Tharsini (14), Kugasaravanamalai Tharsini (13), Rajeev Gandhi Venu (11), Krishnagopal Thavaseelan (13), Rajaratnam Kavitha (10), Nagamutthu Senthilvel (15), Alfonse Amalaviji(14),Mahalingam Sanmugavadivelan(16),R. Sumithra(10),K. Methini(14, Navamany Mithura(14), Sellam(15),Ragavan(16),Thangarasa Vasanthakumar(06), Mylvaganam Gananathan(14), Ranjithkumar Rajitha(11).