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A Sri Lankan court today suspended the excavation at a suspected mass grave found in a former conflict zone where the army battled Tamil Tiger rebels, whose remains will now be scrutinised by archaeologists.
"We have found layers and layers of skeletal remains. We now feel that further excavations will not be possible without the expertise of archaeologists," Judicial Medical Officer Dhananjaya Waidyaratne said.
"So we have put on hold further digging until we obtain the services of the Department of Archaeology. The court ordered that work to be suspended until January 3."
The suspected mass grave in the northeastern district of Mannar is the first one found after the end of the military campaign against the LTTE in 2009.
A magisterial inquiry was launched last week after workers of the National Water Supply and Drainage Board found skeletal remains when they were digging to lay water pipes adjacent to a road in Mannar.
At least 10 skulls had been found at the site so far. Investigators believed that the remains are of people killed by the LTTE, Senior Superintendent of Police Ajith Rohana said.
"The LTTE had controlled this area for well over 15 years. So it must be the remains of the members of the security forces and civilians killed by the LTTE," Rohana said.
A similar mass grave was found outside the battle zone in the central district of Matale last year.
The Marxist JVP claimed the victims in that grave were its members who had allegedly died at the hands of security forces during 1987-90 when the party led an insurrection against an intervention by the Indian government in Sri Lanka's separatist conflict.