15 Dec 2012

Mass grave found in Sri Lanka

6:16 am on 15 December 2012

The partial remains of nearly 60 people have been unearthed in central Sri Lanka at what appears to be a mass grave on the site of a hospital. Theories about the cause of the deaths range from terrorism to disease.

Skulls and partial skeletons were discovered late last month by workers building a facility at a hospital in Matale.

Forensic medical specialist Ajith Jayasena told the BBC that 58 sets of remains have been found so far, some full and some partial. He said that more may still be discovered.

Dr Jayasena said the grave site was not a regular place of burial.

"We have to find out whether they are male or female, their age, whether they had any injuries, and the cause or circumstances of their deaths," he said.

Dr Jayasena said that no real conclusions could be drawn until a team of experts had finished its work. Some bones were damaged during the initial discovery.

The BBC reports the Matale area was an epicentre of a insurgency by the JVP, a Sinhalese group, in the late 1980s.

But hospital workers have suggested that the grave could contain the bodies of smallpox victims.

And police in Colombo said that the bodies were probably victims of a landslide in 1946.