During military conflict or internal unrest, groups of civilians or defenceless prisoners of war may be systematically murdered or mutilated, women raped and business and homes looted. This may be done by soldiers either acting under orders from high command, or as isolated acts perpetrated without explicit orders. Such atrocities may be carried out as reprisals for attacks by partisan or resistance groups, as a means of maintaining control of the country or as rewards to soldiers.
Several Sri Lankan soldiers, who upon learning of the murder of two of their men by a Tamil separatist movement in 1991, descended upon three small Tamil villages, killing 67 civilians with gunfire and burning stakes. By the end of 1992, none of the perpetrators had been tried and no compensation had been made to the 189 families involved in the raid. A 1991 massacre of up to 180 civilians by Indonesian security forces in East Timor became the focus of contradictory explanations, as security forces insisted the shooting was a result of misunderstood order, while witnesses in the crowd claimed the attack was unprovoked and prolonged in order to eliminate some of the 3,500 people who had gathered to mourn 2 pro-independence activists earlier killed by police forces.