The Lanka Academic

 
APRIL 13, 2004 EST, USA
 
A NEWSPAPER PUBLISHED BY LACNET
 
VOL. 5, NO. 8

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Headline Summary
F R E E      C L A S S I F I E D S
T  O  P      H  E  A  D  L  I  N  E
Tamil Tigers release nearly 150 child soldiers in eastern Sri Lanka
Associated Press, Tue April 13, 2004 07:21 EDT . - - COLOMBO,Sri Lanka - (AP) Tamil Tiger guerrillas released nearly 150 child soldiers in eastern Sri Lanka - on Tuesday after they beat back a breakaway rebel faction in clashes over the weekend, the U.N. children's agency said.

``UNICEF welcomes the release of these children and will provide support to them and their families,'' said Ted Chaiban, UNICEF's local representative.

``For too long these children have had to live as soldiers and have been denied the rights of other children to learn, play, and live in the security of a family environment.''

UNICEF said in a statement that some 150 child soldiers who had been fighters for the Liberation Tigers of Tamileelam were released, though it was still trying to confirm the total number.

Human rights groups have estimated that the Tamil Tigers may have used as many as 4,000 child soldiers in their civil war against the Sri Lankan government which began in 1983 and cost more than 65,000 lives.

``Although we are very glad to see these children being reunited with their families, there are hundreds and possibly thousands more still in the ranks of the Liberation Tigers of Tamileelam,'' the statement said.

The agency also said that after the fighting, hundreds of other children may be returning home on their own.

``We hope that this large release of children is the beginning of a new trend by the LTT,'' Chaiban said.

Tamil Tigers agreed with UNICEF last July to release all child soldiers in their ranks. But the U.N. body said in a report in January that the rebel group was still holding about 1,300 child soldiers.

A Norway-brokered cease-fire ended the violence in February 2002, though the mainstream rebel group advanced against a breakaway faction last Friday, killing a reported 33 from both sides.
Published: Tue Apr 13 12:12:44 EDT 2004

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