MANNAR, Sri Lanka (AP)- Sri Lankan troops stormed a northern village church where about 200 Tamil civilians were sheltering Saturday, shooting, throwing hand grenades and then attacking fishermen in an assault that killed five people, witnesses said.
The military immediately denied the accusations, saying the people killed in the village of Pesalai were actually Tamil Tiger militants.
"The terrorists came posing as fishermen," said military spokesman Brig. Prasad Samarasinghe, speaking from the capital, Colombo.
But numerous villagers, now being treated in the nearby government hospital, gave near-identical accounts of security forces storming the town and shooting civilians.
"We were all inside the church when the navy and army broke in and opened fire. A grenade was thrown inside through a window," said Mariyadas Loggu, 46, who was being treated for hand injuries.
Because of violence in the region, people in many villages often take shelter in churches, seeing them as safe havens.
One person died inside the church and four others were fatally shot while coming in from fishing, Loggu and a half-dozen other hospitalized villagers said.
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