Navaly church bombing

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Navaly church bombing
Navaly Church Memorial.jpg
Navaly church bombing is located in Northern Province
Navaly church bombing
LocationNavaly, Sri Lanka
Coordinates9°43′N 79°59′E / 9.717°N 79.983°E / 9.717; 79.983Coordinates: 9°43′N 79°59′E / 9.717°N 79.983°E / 9.717; 79.983
DateJuly 9, 1995 (+6 GMT)
TargetSri Lankan Tamils
Attack type
Aerial bombardment
InjuredUnknown but many
PerpetratorsSri Lankan Air Force

The Navaly Church bombing was the bombing of the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Navaly (or Navali) in the Jaffna peninsula by the Sri Lankan Air Force during the Sri Lankan Civil War. It is estimated that at least 125 civilians, who had taken refuge from the fighting inside the church, died as a result of this incident. The victims included men, women and children.[1][2]


This incident occurred during a phase of the Sri Lankan Civil War when the Sri Lankan military were on the offensive to retake the Jaffna peninsula. This operation was already highlighted by the use of intense artillery shelling and aerial bombardment.[3] As part of precautions to avoid civilian casualties the military had distributed leaflets requesting minority Sri Lankan Tamil civilians take shelter at places of worship. For their safety hundreds of civilians had taken refuge in the church.[4]


The Church of St. Peter and Paul in Navaly (also spelled Navali) on the Jaffna peninsula was bombed by a Sri Lankan military aircraft on the afternoon of July 9, 1995. Several hundred Tamil civilians were taking refuge at the church and surrounding environs at the time.

According to Daya Somasundaram, a professor of the University of Adelaide,[5] the church was well away from the fighting. He termed this attack a war crime committed by the Sri Lankan Air Force.[2]

Initial reports[edit]

The news of the incident was first broken by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which at the time was the only aid agency working in the Tamil areas. The ICRC helped evacuate many of the wounded by ambulance to the Jaffna Teaching Hospital.

Immediate casualties were given as 65 killed and over 150 injured, many of whom were women and children. Eventually this figure rose to 125 killed, as many succumbed to their injuries,[1] partly because the hospital was unable to cope with so many casualties at one time.[citation needed]


The Sri Lankan government initially denied any knowledge of the bombing, and then claimed it could have been LTTE mortars that caused the damage. The Commander of the Sri Lankan Air Force stated they exploded LTTE ammunition trucks or underground ammunition storage and that the deaths of the civilians were caused by secondary explosions of underground LTTE ammunition dumps.[6] However, in a later report, the ICRC head in Sri Lanka, Marco Altherr, said that it was indeed bombs that had fallen on the area; he further included eyewitness accounts from civilians in the area, including a priest from another church in the vicinity, that also supported this claim. Eventually the government agreed to investigate the incident.[3][7]

The Red Cross protested in the aftermath of the attack. However, this protest was brought to a close after the members involved in the protest were summoned to the Foreign Office and asked to give it up.[2]

Government investigation[edit]

On July 11, Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunge released a statement that expressed "sorrow at the loss of lives" and ordered the investigation of the bombing. On July 18, the military confirmed that the church was badly damaged but said that they could not confirm the origin of the bombs that destroyed it.[4]


  1. ^ a b 1995 Human Rights report – South Asia Archived 2005-03-20 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b c Somasundaram, D. (1997). "Abandoning Jaffna hospital: Ethical and moral dilemmas". Medicine, Conflict and Survival. 13 (4): 333–347. doi:10.1080/13623699708409357.
  3. ^ a b UTHR Bulletin # 17
  4. ^ a b 1995 HRW report – Sri Lanka
  5. ^ War more traumatic than tsunami
  6. ^ "SRI LANKA". Amnesty International. 1996-08-14. Archived from the original on 2007-03-11. Retrieved 2007-08-21.
  7. ^ ICRC Document