UN urges Sri Lanka to disarm paramilitary group

Aug 9, 2007 (AFP) – The United Nations on Thursday urged Sri Lanka to disarm a pro-government paramilitary group operating in the east of the island to ensure safety and security for aid workers and residents. John Holmes, the UN undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, ended a four-day tour of the country urging de-militarisation of the troubled eastern region.

“It is important that the disarmament of the Karuna faction should happen as soon as possible,” Holmes told reporters here, referring to a breakaway faction of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

“It is important that, in principle, only people bearing arms should be local authorities. Karuna operates in areas controlled by the government,” he said.

His remarks came four days after New York-based Human Rights Watch said that the Karuna group continued to abduct and forcibly recruit children with the knowledge of the Sri Lankan government.

The government has denied armed groups are operating in the areas it controlled, apart from LTTE cadres who are trying to flee the area. The military also denies any links with the Karuna group.

Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said i