Monday, March 16, 2009

UN accuses Sri Lankan rebels of recruiting worker

The United Nations on Monday accused the Tamil Tigers of seizing one of its staff members and pressing him into service, as the rebels struggle to avoid a defeat in a shrinking war zone in northern Sri Lanka.

A statement from the U.N. in Colombo said it "fears for the safety of one U.N. national staff member, and three dependent family members who were forcibly recruited over the weekend by the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam)."

The charge comes as the Sri Lankan military said more than 1,500 people had fled the war zone in the last several days. The government accuses the rebels of using civilians as human shields in a desperate attempt to avoid defeat as the military closes in to finish off a 25-year civil war.

The United Nations statement said the worker and family members, including a 16-year-old girl, were forced inside a government-declared "safe zone." It did not describe what the rebels asked the group to do.

It said another U.N. staff worker taken two weeks ago has not been released despite repeated requests.

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