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University Teachers for Human Rights, Jaffna


Guns, Bullets and Wounds

Addendum to Special Report No.30

March 2008

In the main section of the report, we described an authentic account of the killing of the 17 ACF staff. We also identified tentatively the weapon carried by Susantha, the OIC’s bodyguard, as an Uzi submachine gun, which fired 9 x 19 mm bullets. Despite the attempt at a cover up, we argued in Bullet for a Fig Leaf, Special Report No.27, that the Australian forensic pathologist Dr. Dodd’s original identification of the bullet found in Romila as 5.56 mm has far better standing than his revised opinion that it was the core of a 7.62 mm. The revision was made without asking for the original photograph taken and certified at the second autopsy that should have been with the Sri Lankan pathologist, but is now unaccounted. His claim that he had relied on three CID officers present who misidentified the bullet is absurd. Dodd’s complete first report is appended to Special Report No.27.

We have stated in the main report that Romila was killed by Jehangir, who some of the time was using a weapon belonging to the naval commandos. He was reputedly an expert with guns and had become very chummy with the commandos. The commandos had both M 16 and FN Minimi (M 249) weapons which fired 5.56 x 45 mm bullets.

In Special Report No.27, we pointed out from Dodd’s report that the types of injuries in two others besides Romila Sivapragasam, among the eleven exhumed victims, are indicative of bullet fragmentation. The bullet in Romila’s head, first identified as 5.56 mm, had fragmented on its downward journey.

One bullet entered Miss. Romila Sivapragasam’s head just above her left forehead and exited through the back of her neck. This rules out her having been on the ground face down. A second entered through the back of her right upper arm and exited through her forearm, which rules out her lying on her back on the ground. The two considerations tell us that she was in all likelihood  kneeling on the ground and was shot with a gun held above her head pointing down. The entry wounds for the two injuries were 2 x 1 cm and 1.5 x 1 cm respectively, which suggests (see 7.4) that the bullets did not explode or fragment on entry. Two objects were found in her cranium.

Yogarajah Kodeeswaran had three penetrating injuries on his head. These were, an injury to the mid forehead measuring according to Dodd’s first report 15 x 1 cm (1.5 x 1?), between the eyebrows measuring 2 x 3 cm and a large injury to the middle third of the face measuring 8 x 6 cm. Dodd observed that there is a suggestion of at least three entry wounds to the mid-facial area with a common large irregular exit at the back of the head measuring 14 x 5 cm.

Another entry wound on the upper right anterior chest measuring 5 x 5 cm resulted in apparently two projectiles travelling through his torso and being extracted from his left knee, both described by Dodd as 7.62 calibre... Six small irregular metallic fragments were identified on the right side of the upper part of the victim’s head.

Miss. Vairamuththu Kokilavarthani had an entry wound of 2 x 2 cm on the right side of her face and an exit measuring 15 x 8 cm through the middle third of her face. There was also rib disruption in the area of bullet fragmentation and a vertically oriented irregular laceration at the back of her right chest measuring 14 x 6 cm. Although the entry wound is not identified, Dodd suggests in a diagram that the bullet may have come from above her right shoulder while she was kneeling, leading to fragmentation in her chest. The largest of these fragments measuring 5 x 4 cm was recovered as evidence.

Citing the work of Dr. Martin L. Fackler, we pointed out in Special Report No.27 that such bullet fragmentation in the body, which is characteristic of 5.56 mm projectiles, is exceptional for the usual Russo-Chinese FMJ 7.62 x 39 mm type ammunition.

The foregoing lends greater weight to Dodd’s original identification. But to go further we needed something more.

A former member of the ACF staff told us several months ago about finding ammunition remains that were different from the standard 7.62 x 39 mm remains pertaining to T 56 or AK 47 guns, the only remains to feature in the productions of police investigators. At that time we had nothing to connect his information with. He had spoken of a short and squat type of cartridge thicker than the 7.62 mm. We asked him again after we received an account of what happened at the scene, including a physical description of the guns used. After some reflection the former member of the ACF said that they were casings of 9 mm bullets used by Uzi machine guns, commonly used by bodyguards – or 9 x 19 mm ammunition.

This immediately agreed with the description of the weapon our sources told us that Constable Susantha was carrying. This former member of the ACF staff was among the team that went to collect the bodies of their dead colleagues and had since faced intimidation. He had the presence of mind to show these remains to a civilian very knowledgeable in weapons. The former ACF staff member told us that the expert had identified the remains.

In the course of our exchange with the former ACF staff member, he drew the ellipses in a photograph taken when the bodies were collected. The photograph shows that the four women were in a group when they were killed. Kokila, Kovarthani and Kavitha had fallen forwards while Romila had fallen aslant. Her body could be seen enclosed in the red ellipse. The former ACF member told us that the casings found in the red ellipse were 5.56 mm and were hidden. They were in the bloody muck in which Romila’s body was. This former ACF staff member collected some when he put his hand into the muck in the process of trying to pull out Romila’s body, which was distinguished by a missing left arm. It was the bullet in Romila’s head that Dodd had first identified as 5.56 mm.   

The green ellipses were where they found the 9 mm remains. Of 5.56 remains there seemed quite a number and about three were collected by hand. Of 9 mm remains there were in his judgment a significant number. Most common were 7.62 x 39 mm remains, both casings and disfigured bullets. What came as a surprise was the identification by the expert of some casings of 7.62 x 51 mm cartridges. The former ACF staff member told us that if the expert said so we could be absolutely certain. 

There were, the former ACF man told us, only a few of the 7.62 x 51 mm type remains and were to the right of the photograph below, with the bodies but nearer the wall. We completely trust this former ACF member’s word. The persons who gave us information about the incident itself knew about the normal T 56 rifle, but were not knowledgeable about others. What the former ACF member told us, together with the earlier testimony that Jehangir who sometime used a commando weapon had killed the women, makes it virtually certain that Romila was killed by a 5.56 mm bullet.

This along with Kokilavarthani’s injury involving bullet fragmentation described above makes it very likely that she too was killed by a 5.56 mm bullet, which is notorious for fragmentation. She was among the women who we learn were killed by Jehangir. Kavitha Ganesh was another woman victim who featured in the second autopsy. From Dodd’s report her death was caused by a bullet causing an injury of 1 cm in diameter entering through the parietal bone above her left eye and exiting near her right jaw leaving an 8 x 8 cm injury. There were no fragments. Kovarthani Kanagaratnam did not feature in the second autopsy. According to Waidyaratna’s report, one bullet entered the back of her head (2 x 2 cm) and exited around her mouth (8 x 8 cm).

The 5.56 mm remains in the muck near Romila may represent bullets fired at other women as well. A 7.62 mm projectile was found in Kavitha’s clothing but with no evidence of an entry wound. Dodd opined this was one not fired at her but was the result of a ricochet or one that had passed through another.

We will see below that bullets from the Uzi gun used by Susantha do not fragment. 7.62 mm bullets deform but fragmentation in the human body is extremely rare by the work of Martin Fackler cited in Special Report No. 27. An article by Fackler is also attached to this Addendum. What about Nilantha and his weapon?

Our sources said that Nilantha was using a light machine gun with belt-fed ammunition. If it was obtained from the police armoury at Mutur, it should not be hard to trace. From what we are able to gather, police stations in the North-East have been given a variety of weapons because of the war situation, but from what information we have, most rifles and light machine guns with the Police use 7.62 x 39 mm ammunition. Mutur police station also had M 16 rifles using 5.56 mm ammunition. This is not a light machine gun as described and the evidence on the ground identified just one patch where 5.56 mm remains were found. What the Mutur Police had as light machine guns include 84 S guns and belt ammunition is used in several guns using 7.62 x 39 mm type. This is to be expected as policemen would not have had sophisticated weapons training, unless they had been in the STF. Varied types of ammunition have different recoil properties and changing over requires practice. 

Sri Lanka did purchase a few thousand G3 rifles of Pakistani make in the early 1980s. These use 7.62 x 51 mm type ammunition corresponding to some remains at the scene. These are often used in sniper rifles because of their long-range accuracy, but the American and NATO FMJ 7.62 x 51 mm type bullets (in contrast to the German) are not known for severe or complex injuries (see Fackler’s article attached). We doubt that this type of weapon would be common in police stations. We might as a first guess suppose that Nilantha’s weapon used standard 7.62 x 39 mm ammunition.

Assuming that 7.62 x 51 mm casings were correctly identified, how does one explain them? A friend who is a former army officer told us that typically in the Special Forces, a group of say a dozen men, could have possibly six different types of weapons, which also confuses responsibility for an atrocity. The 7.62 x 51 mm bullets were likely fired by naval commandos.

Our sources on the incident told us that the commandos stood by passively when the massacre began. It was plain butchery. But there seems to have been an unusual development where two or more of the victims tried to escape. This may have prompted the naval commandos to intervene.

About Kodeeswaran we said in Special Report No. 27, “The [7.62 mm] bullets may not have been immediately fatal. It might appear that someone shot him downwards from the back while he was kneeling and was also shot perhaps by another gunman separately on the face.” This is a bit obscure.

The photograph attached shows him fallen away from the others and facing the wall. The premises were initially surrounded by commandos, who remained passive. The three main killers were in general firing downwards. This would also have been partly to avoid hitting those in the surroundings.

The complication with regard to Kodeeswaran is that he had an entry wound on the rear side of the upper part of his chest resulting in two 7.62 x 39 mm bullets, one deformed, in the region of his left knee, and he also had severe injuries consistent with a spray of horizontal, fragmenting bullets hitting him full on the face and neck leaving a vertical gash on the back of his head.

The most plausible explanation seems that he was first shot at from close behind, when he was in the kneeling position, with a gun firing 7.62 x 39 mm bullets, which did not immobilise Kodeeswaran, but rather shocked him into springing up and attempting escape. The fragmentation suggests that he was hit by 5.56 mm bullets fired by one of the commandos, who went into action only when escape was attempted.

Two other bodies were found separately and are not in the photograph. They were those of Seelan (Jaseelan) found near the motorcycle shed to the left looking from the gate and of Konesh found in the corridor. Seelan was hit sideways through the left ear lobe and the bullet emerged from the right of the head – a single through horizontal shot almost from ear to ear. The victim was probably standing.

Konesh had two injuries, one through the outer left upper arm and over the left shoulder. The fatal injury hit the left side of the front of the neck and emerged through the right side of the back of the neck. He too was possibly standing. 

The evidence of several 5.56 mm remains near Romila, suggest that she and perhaps other women close to her, received fire from a gun firing bullets of that type. Such remains were not found elsewhere at the scene. This brings us to another note of caution. The bullet remains found must not be taken to represent the whole picture. The very first witness we referred to said that the commandos came a second time in a cavalcade. It is very likely that they removed signs of bullets other than the standard 7.62 x 39 mm that would have pointed to the state forces. Apparently they did not scour the pools of blood, such the one in which Romila was. It is likely that a good deal more could be said from the injuries and the positions of bodies.            

Some Technical Points

We deal with a few technical points in closing. The Naval Special Forces Commandos had both M16 as well as FN Minimi weapons, both of which fired the standard M193 5.56 x 45 mm as well as SS109 5.56 x 45 mm bullets, although M 193 is the standard bullet for M 16 and SS 109 (US equivalent M 855) the NATO standard for the FN Minimi. While both have identical cartridge dimensions the SS 109 has a bullet or slug 23 mm long and heavier than the M 193 slug which is 19.3 mm long.

The difference is that the rifling in M 16 has one twist in 12 inches of barrel length and the FN Minimi one twist in 7 inches, giving bullets fired by the latter a significantly greater angular spin. When speaking of 5.56 mm bullets it is necessary to clarify whether it is M 193 or SS 109 (M 855). We suspect it is the first that was found in Romila’s head, but with the original photograph at the autopsy missing, we have only the X-ray photograph to go by. Dr. Martin Fackler who has studied wounding patterns says in ‘Military rifle wound patterns’ that the injury patterns of both bullets are similar:

The slightly heavier and longer American M855 bullet shot from the M16A2 assault rifle is replacing the M193 bullet shot from the M16A1 as the standard bullet of the US armed forces. FN Herstal originally developed this bullet type (which has a steel "penetrator" as the forward part of its core - Fig. 1) designating its bullet the SS109. The wound profile (Fig. 6) is very similar to that produced by the M 193 bullet. Although the SS109 and the M855 are not the same bullet, their differences are small and one almost needs a magnifying glass and a side-by-side comparison to differentiate the two. There is little difference in their performance in tissue. The abdominal and the thigh wound produced by the M855 or the SS109 bullets would be essentially the same as those described above for the M16A1 M193 bullet.

The longer 5.56mm bullets (M855, SS109) need a higher rotational velocity to maintain stabilisation in air. FN claimed that this faster rotation also causes the SS109 to have a significantly longer path in tissue before marked yaw occurs, thus producing wounds of less severity. This is simply untrue (compare Fig. 4 with Fig. 6). Additional rotation beyond that needed to keep the bullet straight in air appears to have little or no effect on the projectile's behaviour in tissue.

Fackler’s full article has been linked to this addendum since it has much to say about the case in hand. One more question needs to be answered, what is the wounding pattern of 9 x 19 mm Uzi bullets, which were also used in the incident? A Medical and Forensic Investigation report by Physicians for Human Rights of 3rd November 2000, titled ‘Evaluation of the Use of Force in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank’ says:

Introduced in 1902, the 9-mm Luger is the most widely used military handgun cartridge in the world. All modern submachine guns, including the Uzi, are chambered for this cartridge. The muzzle velocity ranges from 370 to 390 meters/sec (1214 to 1280 ft/sec). A 9-mm round is generally stable and does not break-up on striking the tissue. The loss of kinetic energy is much less than those encountered in high velocity rounds including the 5.56-mm and 7.62-mm, and hence the temporary cavities and the severity of injuries are less intense.”

The Uzi causes uncomplicated wounds more in keeping with 19th century rifle bullets in speed and effect. For full-metal-jacketed bullets, the 7.62 x 39 mm has a velocity of 713 m/s (2339 ft/sec), the M 193 used by M 16, a velocity of 943 m/s (3094 ft/sec), the SS109 925 m/s (3035 ft/sec) and 7.62 x 51 mm 862 m/s (2828 ft/sec).


Photograph of the Scene of Massacre: ACF Victims  

Military rifle bullet wound patterns – Martin L. Fackler

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