Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels have stepped up recruitment of child soldiers months after the release of hundreds of young recruits, UNICEF said yesterday. \nUNICEF said they had about 160 reports of fresh recruits since the start of April, nearly one-third of which were in the eastern district of Batticaloa, the stronghold of a renegade rebel commander known by his nom de guerre, Karuna. \nKaruna broke from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in early March and although the Tigers retook the area under his control a month later, Batticaloa has remained the center of sporadic clashes and assassinations thought to be related to the split. \nThe LTTE formally freed nearly 300 child soldiers in April and another 750 are thought to have returned to their villages on their own. \n"The April returns were a big step forward for the LTTE. However, this has been completely undermined by continued recruitment of new children," UNICEF resident head Ted Chaiban said in a statement. \nThe release of child soldiers -- who were thought to comprise as much as 20 percent of the rebels' fighting force -- is seen as a test of their commitment to efforts to end the separatist war that began in 1983. But recruitment has continued despite a two-year truce. \nThe Tigers and UNICEF embarked on a US$14 million plan last year to help children in the north and east -- the center of the rebels' fight for a Tamil state -- but Chaiban said they were not living up to their commitments under the program. \nHe said the Tigers' recruitment pamphlets and announcements failed to make clear that anyone under 18 would not be accepted, despite repeated requests from UNICEF to make the clarification. \n"None of these steps have been taken. These are easy things the LTTE could be doing to show the world they take the issue of child recruitment seriously," Chaiban said. \nThe Tigers have admitted using underage fighters in the past but say the children joined voluntarily and that in some cases it is impossible to know their real age.
Vietnam has lodged an official protest with China following the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat that it said had been rammed by a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel near islands in the South China Sea. The Vietnamese fishing vessel, with eight fishermen onboard, was fishing near the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) on Thursday when it was rammed and sunk by the Chinese vessel, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement posted on a government Web site yesterday. All of the fishermen were picked up by the Chinese vessel alive and were transferred to two other Vietnamese fishing vessels
The dramatic quietening of towns and cities during lockdown in Britain has changed the way the Earth moves beneath our feet, scientists said. Seismologists at the British Geological Survey (BGS) have found that their sensors are twitching less now that human activity has been curtailed, leading to a drop in the anthropogenic din that vibrates through the planet. The fall in the human hum that rings around the world means that, in theory at least, the scientists should be able to detect smaller earthquakes in the UK, and more distant tremors in Europe and in countries further afield than their equipment usually
China is facing a wave of COVID-19 infections from Russia, with more than half of the country’s total imported cases in the past two days coming through its northeastern land border. Heilongjiang, China’s northernmost province, which borders Russia, has reported 60 imported cases this month, according to the Health Commission of Heilongjiang Province. All but one entered the Chinese border by car or coach from the nearby Russian city of Vladivostok, after they flew from Moscow, where more than half of Russia’s 6,300 cases have been reported. The Russian cases account for one-third of all the confirmed infections China has detected in
‘GOOD NEWS’: The nation’s top health official said that the number of emergency phone calls had decreased, although it was too soon to say that it indicated a trend France on Friday reported 588 deaths from COVID-19 in hospital, its biggest 24-hour toll since the pandemic began. The new deaths brought to 5,091 the total number of people who have died in hospital of COVID-19 in France, top health official Jerome Salomon told reporters. There is no daily toll for those who have died of COVID-19 in retirement homes in France. Salomon said that a total of 1,416 people had died in such establishments from COVID-19 during the epidemic, which would raise the total French toll to at least 6,507. France has been in lockdown since March 17 in a bid to slow