Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sri Lanka's east to set up no-firearm zone soon

COLOMBO, June 23 (Xinhua) -- Sri Lanka's once volatile Eastern Province held by various extremist groups is to be free of firearms next month, defense officials announced on Tuesday.

The Ministry of Defense has set a rigid deadline of July 2 for all extremist groups holding firearms to surrender the weapons.

"The government has asked all groups to surrender weapons," A. L. M Hisbullah, a provincial government official told the media.

The police said the directive was aimed at some Muslim groups carrying firearms in the Batticaloa district's Kathankudy area.

"There were people who took up arms in self defense due to the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) problem. Now the LTTE is not there anymore," Hisbullah said.

In 1990, the LTTE massacred around 100 Muslim devotees in the Kathankudy mosque.

The multi-ethnic Eastern Province where almost equal proportions of all three ethnic communities -- Sinhalese, Muslims and Tamils -- live has seen peace prevailing since the government troops expelled the LTTE from the province in 2007.

Local elections were held in 2008, resulting in an ex-Tamil militant group, Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP, Tamil People's Liberation Tigers) gaining control of the province.

The TMVP themselves surrendered their weapons late last year.

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