Karuna ‘abducted hundreds of children’ – The Times

[TamilNet, Friday, 27 October 2006, 15:48 GMT]
The Karuna Group has abducted between 300 and 900 children — some as young as 12 — since March, The Times newspaper reported this week, quoting international and local aid workers in Sri Lanka. The paramilitary group’s “escalating activity has emerged as a key factor behind the upsurge in violence that has killed more than 2,000 people this year and left a 2002 ceasefire agreement in tatters,” the British newspaper said.

The Times spoke to residents and aid workers in Sri Lanka’s restive Batticaloa district.

“Karuna is implicating the Government in the kidnap and exploitation of hundreds of children, according to aid workers, truce monitors, witnesses and relatives,” the paper said.

V.Muralitharan, alias Karuna, leads the paramilitary group, known as 'Karuna group'
“There is some sort of complicity by the Government in what is happening to children here,” one aid worker who asked not to be identified told The Times.

“Most people feel there is no difference between the Government and Karuna.”

Batticaloa residents and Norwegian-led truce monitors told The Times that they regularly see Karuna members — armed and in black uniforms or civilian dress — working alongside troops and police.

They say that government forces allow Karuna to transport children through dozens of checkpoints on the way to a training camp near the town of Welikande.

“Karuna’s political wing, the TMVP, has opened several offices around eastern Sri Lanka recently, many beside military camps,” the paper reported.

The paper spoke to five Tamil mothers who told similar stories about their sons being seized and forced to work as soldiers or labourers for the Karuna Group. “None reported the abductions to the police for fear of retribution,” the paper said.

Analysts the paper spoke to cited the Karuna Group as one of the main obstacles to a negotiated settlement to Sri Lanka’s long-running conflict.

The paper quoted analysts as saying that Karuna is at the heart of the Sri Lankan government’s strategy to divide and conquer the Tigers by exploiting tensions between northern and eastern Tamils.

The Times, whose editorials are strongly critical of the Liberation Tigers’ armed struggle, also spoke to E. Prethip, an official in the TMVP’s Batticaloa office, who denied recruiting minors and blamed the Tigers.


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