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Sri Lanka Denies Report on Civilian Deaths

The Sri Lankan military is denying a British newspaper report that says more than 20,000 civilians were killed in the final push against Tamil Tiger rebels.

The Times says Friday an independent investigation found most of the civilians were killed by government forces.  The newspaper says it arrived at the death toll after reviewing aerial photographs, official documents, witness accounts and expert testimony.

Sri Lankan officials said The Times death toll is inaccurate.  The government has blamed rebels for civilian deaths.

U.N. officials have estimated at least 7,000 civilians were killed in the bloody final assault, which ended a 25-year civil war this month.

The United Nations Human Rights Council on Wednesday rejected calls for a war crimes investigation.  It praised the Sri Lankan government for liberating hundreds of thousands of civilians and accused Tamil rebels of using civilians as human shields.

The Tamil Tiger rebels began their fight for a separate homeland for the ethnic Tamil minority in 1983. The U.N. estimates that as many as 100,000 people died in the more than two decades of conflict.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.

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