COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lankan soldiers on Friday killed three men who were attempting to revive the Tamil Tigers separatist group, which was defeated in the country's civil war nearly five years ago, the Defense Ministry said.
Spokesman Brig. Ruwan Wanigasooriya said in a statement that the three men were operating from a jungle in the Padaviya area of northern Mullaittivu district. They were surrounded by soldiers and were shot and killed while trying to escape the cordon.
Sri Lanka's quarter-century civil war ended in May 2009 after government forces defeated the Tamil Tigers, who were fighting to create a separate state for ethnic Tamils in the island nation's northern and eastern regions. Between 80,000 and 100,000 people were killed in the conflict.
Police in recent weeks have arrested about 60 ethnic Tamil civilians, accusing them of helping a renewed armed separatist campaign in Sri Lanka's north and east.
Ethnic Tamil politicians, however, say the government is raising a false alarm to be able to maintain a heavy military presence in the north and keep the people in fear.
Sri Lanka's government has come under heavy international criticism for military interference in civilian life, land grabs and suppressing personal and political freedoms.
The United Nations Human Rights Council last month approved an investigation into crimes allegedly committed by both sides in the civil war.
Wanigasooriya said the three men were operating under instructions from two Tamil Tiger leaders based in Europe. Their immediate mission was to recover weapons dumped when the Tigers retreated during the final stages of the war, revive their intelligence network, regroup their cadres and survey potential targets for attack, he said.
A women's rights group this week accused Sri Lankan authorities of detaining innocent female family members of males with suspected links to rebels and subjecting them to ill-treatment.