Sri Lanka Tigers say 27 kid fighters released; UNICEF says there are more

June 13, 2008 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers said Friday they had released 27 more child soldiers, and contested a United Nations estimate that over 1,000 under-age fighters were still in rebel ranks. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who are fighting for an independent state and control much of the north of Sri Lanka, said they were also working to demob the 30 or so children still with them.

According to Unicef, there are 1,410 outstanding cases of child recruitment by the rebels at the end of April 2008.

“Of these, 146 are under the age of 18, and 1,264 were recruited while under 18 but have now passed that age,” UNICEF said.

Over the past two decades, the LTTE has promised to release children from their rank and file, but they have been accused of failing to take concrete action. The UN says there were another 144 outstanding cases of child soldier recruitment by a breakaway rebel faction, the Karuna group, which operates in the island’s east and is allied to the government.