Gov't-backed Sri Lanka group agrees to free 62 child soldiers: UNICEF+
Thu December 4, 2008 06:28 EST .
COLOMBO, Dec. 4 (Kyodo) An ethnic Tamil paramilitary group that supports Sri Lanka - 's government in its fight with the Tamil Tiger rebels has agreed to release 62 more child soldiers, the U.N. Children's Fund or UNICEF said Thursday. ''This agreement shows a clear political commitment and is a very important step in putting an end to the recruitment and use of children by the TMVP,'' said Philippe Duamelle, UNICEF's representative in Sri Lanka - .
''The action plan must now be translated into concrete actions on the ground which will then lead to significant results for children in the very near future,'' he said.
The TMVP, led by ex-rebel commander Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan, better known as Col. Karuna, broke away from the LTTE in March 2004, triggering fierce fighting between the two factions.
Both factions have been accused by UNICEF in the past of not taking seriously their public assurances that they are not recruiting child soldiers.
UNICEF figures show there were 133 outstanding cases of child recruitment by the TMVP at the end of October while the LTTE is accused of having 1,500 child soldiers.
In September, the Sri Lankan government ordered U.N. agency staff out of rebel-held northern regions as fighting between troops and rebels escalated.
''As a result, UNICEF has since been unable to receive and verify cases of child recruitment since that time,'' UNICEF said.
The U.N. agency says thousands of underage fighters have been recruited in Sri Lanka - , the vast majority by the LTTE, since a 2002 ceasefire in the three-decades-long civil war broke down in 2006.Discuss this story
Published: Thu Dec 4 08:44:37 EST 2008