Sri Lanka’s ‘Karuna’ holding 194 child soldiers: UNICEF

April 28, 2007 (AFP) – A pro-government Tamil militant group is holding at least 194 child soldiers despite promises it would free underage combatants, UNICEF said Saturday.

The UN agency for children said the Tamil Tiger faction known as the “Karuna group” was failing to honour its public promises not to recruit child soldiers.

Out of 285 children known to have been recruited by the Karuna faction, there were 194 outstanding reported cases as of the end of last month, UNICEF said in a statement.

Last year, the UN accused Sri Lankan government forces and police of rounding up children in the embattled east of the island to be recruited by the Karuna group, a charge vehemently denied by the authorities here.

UNICEF spokesman Andrew Brooks said cooperation with the faction was “stalemated” and that the guerrillas were not allowing the UN agency access to areas where child soldiers were being held.

“Our supposed cooperation is obscured by the faction’s apparent determination to delay, frustrate, and mislead the process to end the use of children as combatants in this country’s conflict,” Brooks said in a statement.

Brooks said the faction led by Vi