The French charity ACF (Action Against Hunger) on Tuesday alleged that 17 staff engaged in humanitarian work in the town of Muttur in northeast Sri Lanka were killed in cold blood by Sri Lankan forces in August 2006, at the height of the civil war.

In a 28-page report posted on its website, the charity said it was time to reveal the truth about the killing of its aid staff, since it had proved impossible to ascertain the truth or obtain justice from Sri Lankan authorities. Describing the Muttur massacre as “one of the most atrocious war crimes committed against humanitarian workers”, the report says it has brought together eyewitness accounts as well as information gathered from diplomatic and other sources .

Giving details of how the aid workers were killed the report states: “Lined up inside the ACF compound, they had been shot dead at close range...Staying away from direct hostilities, ACF staff were not killed by stray bullets. They were deliberately targeted, despite the fact that they were wearing white ACF T-shirts and were not armed,” the report says.

ACF said it had collected information that reveals that “the 17 humanitarian workers were likely assassinated by the Sri Lankan security forces and that the criminals have been covered up by top Sri Lankan authorities”.

The report carries photographs of all the 17 victims, most of whom were under 30 years of age. ACF has called for an independent international investigation into the matter. “With no prospects of an effective domestic investigation today, ACF has decided to publicly say what it knows about the Muttur massacre,” the report says. ACF says it knows the names of the perpetrators but has decided to withhold that information because it does not wish to take over the role of a judicial authority. The Sri Lankan military has denied the allegations and said the Charity had refused to share evidence.