Rebels abduct 16 children from orphanage, defence ministry claims
Sun December 28, 2008 23:25 EST .
Colombo (dpa) - Tamil rebels abducted 16 children from a Catholic orphanage in northern Sri Lanka - to be enlisted in their movement as fighters, according to civilians who have escaped, the defence ministry said Monday.
The children were taken away from the Dharmapuram in Kilinochchi, 320 kilometres north of the capital, after holding two Roman Catholic priests at gunpoint Friday, the army said one civilian reported.
It said the Tamil rebels demanded the priest release all children above the age of 12 to be taken away.
The incident was witnessed by a woman who lives adjacent to the church, the ministry said.
``Those innocent children tried in vain to cling on to the two priests. They pleaded the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) cadres to let them go. But they were dragged like cattle taken to the slaughterhouse,'' the ministry quoted the woman saying.
``I will never forgive myself for not helping those children. But I had to save my children first. That is why I left my home,'' the mother of two said, according to the army.
The civilians were among a group of 38 persons who escaped into a government-controlled area after fleeing the fighting.
A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Colombo said it could not verify the claims by the civilians because communication with the orphanage was cut off. dpa ad tl
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Published: Mon Dec 29 00:21:25 EST 2008