Sat, Dec 30, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Seized Tamil girl escapes guerrillas

AP , COLOMBO

A 15-year-old Tamil girl who claims she was abducted by separatist rebels and forced to undergo guerrilla training has escaped a rebel camp in eastern Sri Lanka, the military and police said yesterday.

The girl, who has not been named, told police that two women from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels snatched her from her home in eastern Batticaloa district on Dec. 18, and took her to Thoppigala, a jungle training camp in the east, military spokesman Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe said.

Six other girls were also abducted on the same day and forcibly taken for weapons training, Samarasinghe said, quoting the girl.

She escaped early on Tuesday, found her way through the jungle and surrendered to police on Thursday, Samarasinghe said.

"She told the police that there are about 30 to 35 girls at the LTTE camp who are undergoing forced training," he said.

A police officer at Aralaganwilla, where she sought shelter, said the girl had bruises on her legs and hands when she arrived.

"She looked very tired and had injuries specially on her legs," police officer Mahinda Waydyathilaka said by telephone.

"We gave her rice and curry and send her to Polonnaruwa where she will complete legal formalities before she can be handed over to her parents or guardians," he said.

Waydyathilaka said the girl does not want to go home.

"She told us that she is very afraid that the Tigers will come for her again. She is a very frail looking girl, but had enough courage to trek through jungle," he said.

There was no independent confirmation of the incident and the UN children agency, UNICEF, had no information, according to spokesman Francis Mead.

Phone calls to the rebels' northern headquarters at Kilinochchi rang unanswered yesterday.

Tamil rebels are known to have recruited underage fighters -- sometimes by force -- since their separatist rebellion began in 1983. Rebel leaders say forced recruitment no longer takes place and that the movement has strict rules against underage fighters.

Sri Lanka's government has accused the Tamil rebels of abducting at least 455 boys and girls from government-controlled areas this year to be trained as combatants. UNICEF has said insurgents recruited 539 underage combatants this year up to the end of last month.

Separately, Tamil rebels fired at a military post in northern Jaffna peninsula late on Thursday, Samarasinghe said, wounding one soldier.

More than 3,500 combatants and civilians have been killed in fighting this year, according to the Defense Ministry.

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