Sri Lankan rebels release policeman after nearly one year

26, 2006 (AFP) - A Sri Lankan policeman was released Saturday after being held for nearly a year by Tamil Tigers when he pursued a suspected British paedophile into rebel-held territory, ceasefire monitors said. The officer and two others were seized in September last year after they went into the jungle and crossed into the northern Mannar district held by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The two other men were released earlier this year.

The latest release followed a request from Ulf Henricsson, the outgoing head of the team monitoring the crumbling 2002 ceasefire between rebels and government forces.

"He has already been released. He has been handed over to the government ... and his family were waiting for him," said Thorfinnur Omarsson, spokesman for the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission. "Apparently he was well."

Henricsson Friday visited rebel-held areas as he prepared to leave the country along with other monitors from the European Union.

The Tamil Tigers ordered them to leave after the EU banned the LTTE in May.

A group of 30 monitors from Norway and Iceland will now monitor the ceasefire, which holds only on paper.

The monitoring force originally totalled 57.
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