June 22, 2006 (AFP) – A breakaway faction of Tamil Tiger rebels has increased the recruiting of child soldiers, with 30 cases being reported in the past week alone, the UN Children’s Fund said Thursday. The agency called for the Sri Lankan government to take immediate action to halt the abduction and forced enlistment of children by a renegade rebel commander in the island’s east, V. Muralitharan, who is better known as Colonel Karuna.
“Over the past week, the agency has verified reports of 30 cases in (the eastern) Batticaloa district. Reports of abduction and forced recruitment of boys under the age of 18 have increased since March,” UNICEF said.
It has asked the government to investigate the abductions and ensure that children in affected areas are given the full protection of the law.
The main rebel group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), released 33 youngsters last month, saying they had joined rebel ranks after lying about their age.
New York-based Human Rights Watch, in a November 2004 report, said UNICEF had documented 3,516 new cases of underage recruitment by the LTTE between February 2002, when a ceasefire was reached with the government, and October 2004.