Wed, Jan 17, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Sri Lanka claims to find Tamil Tiger torture chambers

AP , COLOMBO

Torture chambers allegedly used by Tamil Tigers to punish escaping rebels and informers, including women fighters, have been found at guerrilla camps in eastern Sri Lanka, the nation's defense ministry said.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) denied the allegation, saying the military was simply trying to damage the group's reputation.

The ministry's Media Center for National Security said a Special Task Force made up of specially trained anti-terrorist commandos uncovered the torture chambers when it seized control of four rebel bases and seven smaller camps in the eastern Ampara district last week.

At one of the LTTE camps, "torture chambers and lockups were established to torture escapees and informers including women cadres," it said in a report posted on its Web site late on Monday.

The alleged torture cells were small, said the report, adding that "many of the surrendered LTTE child cadres have repeatedly revealed the harassment meted out to them by the LTTE if they are caught escaping."

One camp had a well maintained cemetery built by the rebels for their fallen cadres, the statement said.

The Web site carried photographs of the cells, which the rebels said were created by the military.

"The Sri Lankan state is now in the process of tarnishing the image of our liberation organization," rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan said from rebel headquarters in Kilinochchi.

"We do not run torture cells anywhere. The Sri Lankan troops are there for more than a week and they have made up the place in such a manner to look like that," Ilanthirayan said when asked about the photos on the ministry's Web site.

The Special Task Force (STF) launched a campaign on Jan. 4 called Niyathai Jaya, which translates from the Sinhala language as "sure victory," aimed at clearing up rebels bases in Ampara.

After some initial success, land mines planted by the fleeing rebels have been hampering the progress of the task force. Four STF personnel were wounded in land mine blasts over several days, the statement said.

Military spokesman Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe said on Monday that five rebels had accepted the armed forces' call to surrender and he urged others to turn themselves in.

The rebels on Monday ridiculed the idea, but conceded that government forces had taken some rebel-held areas in Ampara, although they said that was not important because the rebels are constantly on the move.

Separately, two policemen on a routine patrol were killed when suspected Tamil rebels triggered a bomb strapped to a bicycle in northern Vavuniya district yesterday, Samarasinghe said.

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