Hartal in Muslim areas in Ampara

[TamilNet, Thursday, 21 August 2003, 15:17 GMT]
A Muslim community vigilantes' group organized a general shut down (hartal) in Ampara Thursday to condemn the disappearance of two Muslim youths from Sainthamaruthu in the Ampara district, and to seek their release if anyone had abducted them, sources said.

Ibrahim Ilyas,30, and Thambilebbe Marzook,20, from Sainthamaruthu left for Valaichenai on August 18, telling their relatives that they would return the next day, but have not returned yet and the relatives say they fear the two might have been abducted by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

In recent days, there have been several abductions and killings of Muslim and Tamil men in the Eastern province. Though the Muslim public and Muslim political leaders allege that the LTTE is behind the killing of Muslim men, the LTTE has denied any involvement, saying that such actions were carried out by forces intent on derailing the peace process who want to cause rift between the Muslim and Tamil communities in the East.

On the other hand, Tamil public and political leaders in the East say that abductions and killings of Tamil youths by some Muslim extremist groups are common in the East.

Adrian Sellan, 20, a Tamil youth who had been abducted the same night after the killing of two Muslims in Trincomalee, is now reported to have been killed. Earlier, another Tamil youth, Gunam Subaraj, was shot dead in Muttur while he was asleep, according to Tamil National Alliance parliamentarians.

The parliamentarians say that Tamil people are unable to walk freely in Muttur or to buy provisions for their day-to-day lives. They live in fear of being attacked by Muslim extremist groups.

Against this backdrop of a tense Eastern province, the Muslim community vigilantes' group that organized the hartal has demanded that if the two Muslim men who disappeared have been abducted by the LTTE, they should be released immediately.

Government offices, schools and business establishments were closed and streets were deserted in the predominantly Muslim areas of Ampara, sources said. No vehicle was seen on the Kalmunai-Ampara and the Kalumnai-Akkaraipattu roads.

Some Muslim youths burnt tires in the Malihaikadu area and an argument ensued between the Muslim youth and the Special Task Force personnel who visited the scene.

However, there were no violent incidents, and the police and the STF conducted increased patrols in the area. A night curfew starting at 6 p.m. has been declared in Kalmunai and Akkaraipattu, sources said.

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