Child soldiers: Tigers abducting 2 school girls held

by Shamindra Ferdinando
Two weeks after the LTTE assured UNICEF chief Carol Bellamy that it would not forcibly conscript anyone under 18 years of age, the group continued to abduct children to strengthen its cadre, an authoritative security official said yesterday.

The LTTE assured the governments of Sri Lanka and Norway that there will be no more child conscriptions at the recently concluded round of negotiations in Berlin.

But they have not changed their strategy but only the style of forcible conscription, he said, adding troops deployed at a checkpoint at Sambaltivu, north of Trincomalee on Friday rescued two 14-year-old girls when they were being ‘led’ by two female cadres to an LTTE training camp.

The women tigers were in civilian dress while the girls were in school uniforms. They were passing the check point to enter the Tiger-held area," the official said, adding that naval troops and police deployed at the location did not suspect anything until the students started crying. They were grade 10 students of the Sambaltivu Tamil M.V. They had been on their way home after school.

Navy and Police swung into action immediately. LTTE cadres were detained and were taken to the nearby Uppuveli police station. Parents of the students also rushed to the check point where the navy directed them to the police at Uppuveli.

According to the students they were threatened by Tiger cadres who came on two push cycles and were given one bike which they were ordered to ride past the checkpoint. The LTTE cadres have followed them on another push cycle.

The officer said troops would not have intervened if the girls did not cry. He was convinced that the Tigers have managed to abduct dozens of other students employing the same tactic.

The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) has been informed of the latest abduction. The office of the President recently claimed the LTTE had recruited 10,000 fresh cadres, most of them forcibly since a cease-fire agreement reached almost a year ago.

Cease-fire monitors visited the police station where they had the opportunity to talk with the students and the abductors. The two LTTE cadres were identified as residents of Alaswatte at Sambaltivu and Bharathipuram, Kantake. Later in the day, police produced them before the Trincomalee Magistrate at his official residence and they were remanded for 14 days. They will be produced in court on February 27, police said, adding that the two cycles and a cyanide capsule were taken into custody.

One of the abductors is only 16 years of age and the other 20.

Police pointed out that they were the first LTTE cadres to be arrested on a case of abduction since the truce agreement came into effect.