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'LTTE conscripting children to fight'

May 04, 2009 13:58 IST

Tamil Tiger rebels, cornered in a small stretch of land in Sri Lanka, are conscripting children, including girls as young as 11, to fight the island nation's army, senior Lankan army officers have claimed.

'It's like looking at your own child. Quite large numbers of the dead are under 16. They grab them from their parents and they try to pull them back they get shot. These children have the dog tags and cyanide capsules. The younger children (captured) go for rehabilitation programme,' Brig Priyantha, who commands an artillery division in the north, told British newspaper The Daily Telegraph.

Agreed his colleague, an officer who identified himself as 'Roan': 'Considerable numbers of the dead (are) child soldiers. The youngest was around 12.'

At Puthumatalan Lagoon, the edge of the no-fire zone, where thousands of civilians have escaped heavy fighting last month, Major-General Jaggath Dias, General Officer Commanding of 57th Division, also said his men were fighting with girls.

He said some of those his men had captured, had their hair cut short to shame them for trying to run away from the front line.

"Girls as young as eleven; our soldiers have seen them on the front line. It's very difficult to shoot a child. But it does not matter what age, you have to shoot,' the British newspaper quoted Dias as saying.

A soldier guarding an abandoned clinic at Mullaitivi, a few miles from the front line, said as many as "seven out of ten were below 15" adding that in the last year an increasing number of LTTE fighters appeared to be young women.

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