Sri Lankan children abducted as rebels admit conscription mistake

COLOMBO, Dec 21, 2006 (AFP) – Armed men have kidnapped 16 boys and three girls in eastern Sri Lanka, a pro-rebel website reported Thursday, as Tiger guerrillas admitted a “mistake” in conscripting 21 others.

The Tamilnet.com website said members of the breakaway Tiger faction known as the “Karuna group”, which is allegedly backed by the government, carried out the latest abduction in the district of Batticaloa Wednesday night.

“Parents who opposed the abductions were beaten by the kidnappers, alleged to be paramilitary cadres of Karuna Group,” Tamilnet.com reported.

Sri Lankan authorities on Tuesday had accused the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) of kidnapping 21 students and two of their teachers for military training.

The Tigers freed the children in two batches amid protests from parents and relief agencies in the area.

LTTE military spokesman Rasiah Ilanthiriyan said the field commanders who had carried out the kidnappings had been suspended, adding the conscription was a “mistake”.

LTTE rebels and the Karuna group have both been accused of conscripting child soldiers.

The Sri Lankan government was also recently accused by the United Nations of colluding with th