|Tuesday, 7 October 2003|
Parents demand release of 15 abducted children
by Ranga Jayasuriya
Parents and schoolchildren yesterday took to the streets in the Eastern town of Valachchenai demanding the release of 15 children abducted by the LTTE on Saturday, merely a day since the Tigers ceremonious release of the first batch of child soldiers.
A spokeswoman for the Scandinavian truce monitors said they have been informed of the abduction of a group of children by the Tigers on Saturday.
"We have unconfirmed reports that several children have been abducted in Saturday evening around 6-7," SLMM spokeswoman Agnes Bragadottier told the Daily News. She said the SLMM was unaware of how many children were abducted. But the local sources put the number at 15.
"We are now investigating the issue and in contact with the LTTE leadership to know how many children are in their custody and to get them released as soon as possible," Bragadottier said. Some 250 schoolchildren and residents blocked the roads in Valachchenai chanting slogans in protest of the kidnapping.
Police and the truce monitors who were present said the protest was peaceful. The Tigers have been routinely accused of abduction and conscription of children.
However the latest episode came a day after 49 child combatants -27 girls and 22 boys- were released by the Tigers after four month rehabilitation program jointly administered by the UNICEF and the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO).
The UNICEF and the LTTE have agreed on a road map to the rehabilitation of child combatants and both parties are working together since April on a 14 million dollar project to dismantle the Tigers' baby brigades.
The UNICEF said there are 1,155 complaints of child abductions by the Tigers. Abduction of children have been the most common ceasefire violation by the Tigers.
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