January 15, 2011 (AFP) – Sri Lankan authorities on Saturday released 78 suspected Tamil Tiger rebels from an internment centre to mark the Tamil harvest festival of Thai Pongal, an official said. A total of 48 women and 30 men left a military-run facility in the northern town of Jaffna, the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation Brigadier Sudantha Ranasinghe said.
Sri Lanka’s minority Tamils celebrate Thai Pongal Saturday, but the festivities have been marred by floods that destroyed farmland and left more than 30 people dead across the island’s northern, central and eastern regions.
“We have about 4,500 men and women left in rehabilitation centres, and they will also be released in small batches shortly,” Ranasinghe told AFP. Some 10,000 combatants gave themselves up when government troops wiped out the Tigers’ top leadership in May 2009, ending the 37-year conflict which had claimed up to 100,000 lives, according to United Nations estimates.