As the Sri Lankan Army (SLA), helped by Israeli and Pakistani mercenaries, claimed success to take a key town in the East, a UN report has criticized the insurgent groups, the government, and their sponsored militia of abducted conscription of children.
Last week, the SLA claimed to have captured the last Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) stronghold in the Batticaloa district after weeks of fighting that included land, sea, and air attacks. They overran Vakarai claiming to have killed 331 rebels and losing 45 soldiers. The LTTE acknowledges that it has made a tactical retreat to cut its loss but quotes figures diametrically opposite to the government numbers. However, observers say that the victory is not going to bring any peace since the LTTE still controls the North and it is only the Government supported Karuna group that controls the East. Vakarai was a toe hold that the LTTE had in the East.
The Sri Lankan Navy (SLN) and the LTTE’s Sea Tigers also clashed near Point Pedro when the Tigers allegedly attacked a cargo ship with fast boats including suicide bombers. The SLN claims that it counter-attacked and sank at least one boat. As usual, the Tiger version is radically different and it is impossible to verify the accuracy of either stories.
A UN Special Representative Allan Rock interim report after an extensive tour of eastern and northern Sri Lanka cited a section of the Sri Lanka Army to be aiding and abetting the Karuna group in the recruitment of child soldiers. An enraged Sri Lankan Government (SLG) representative charged Rock of presenting unsubstantiated allegations and demanded evidence to back up the claim. Brushing aside SLG’s protestations, the UN confirmed Rock’s claims and Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy emphasized that the UN was impartial and that it was attempting to end the global scourge of recruiting children to fight wars. A separate report from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) had issued a similar report October 31, 2006 charging the SLG thought the Karuna group and LTTE of recruiting hundreds of children. This report will now be presented to the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict next month for further action.