Sri Lankan child soldiers freed

COLOMBO, March 31, 2008 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers Monday said they had released 22 child soldiers and disputed figures from the United Nations Children’s Fund that the rebels still had hundreds of under-age fighters. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said they were also trying to locate families of 20 children still within their ranks.
The guerrillas accused UNICEF, which lists several hundred children in LTTE ranks, of not updating its database.

The rebels said another 41 child soldiers remained within their ranks but could not be released because most of them did not have parents or guardians.

Over the last two decades, the Tigers have promised to free children from their rank and file, but they have been accused of failing to take concrete action.

There was no immediate comment from UNICEF to the Tigers’ statement, but the agency’s website said there were 1,428 outstanding cases of child recruitment by the rebels at the end of February 2008.

“Of these, 181 are under the age of 18, and 1,247 were recruited while under 18 but have now passed that age,” UNICEF said.

UNICEF said there were another 235 outstanding cases of child soldier
recruitment by a breakaway rebel faction, the