Sri Lanka blamed for child soldiers

A UN official accuses the military of recruiting for a renegade armed group.

    Rock said evidence of government
    involvement was "disturbing"

    Rock said: "One very disturbing element that confronted us ... has to do with the complicity and participation of some elements of the government's security forces in the forcible abductions by Karuna of children [in the east].

    "We encountered both direct and indirect evidence of this complicity and participation."

    Rock said that Mahinda Rajapakse, the Sri Lankan president, had pledged to investigate the allegations immediately and punish those responsible.

    Military denial

    The military released a statement saying it "vehemently denies having any involvement whatsoever with the LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] breakaway group for abductions in Batticaloa".
     

    Karuna split from the Tamil Tigers in 2004


    The breakaway group is named after their leader, who is known as Karuna.

    He took about 6,000 fighters with him when he split from the Tamil Tigers in 2004.

    Rock also said the Tigers had continued to recruit child combatants and had failed to honour a pledge to release them.

    They have promised to free all their underage fighters by January 1.

    Under-age recruits

    Unicef says there are 1,598 outstanding cases of under-age recruitment by the Tigers, 649 of whom are still under the age of 18. The agency also lists 142 cases by the Karuna group.
       
    Rock said he suspected that the real number of under-age recruits was far higher.

    The Tamil Tigers have been fighting the government since 1983, demanding a separate homeland for ethnic minority Tamils in the north and east of Sri Lanka.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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