Army: Sri Lanka Tigers Break Polio Truce
Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger guerrillas have violated a two-day polio truce agreed with a UN agency in the north of the island by attacking government forces, the defense ministry said Saturday.
The separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) fired mortar bombs at troops in Eluthumadduval and Nagarkovil on Friday and wounded eight soldiers, the ministry said.
Earlier, government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels had agreed to observe "days of tranquility" to enable the immunization of thousands of children against polio, the UN Children's Fund said Friday.
About 600,000 children under the age of five were targeted under the program to be carried out October 27 and 28 and on December 1 and 2, UNICEF said in a press release.
The government wants to reach children in areas where immunization coverage has been relatively low so far -- in districts most affected by the conflict, as well as the capital Colombo and nearby town of Gampaha.
With the support of UNICEF and other bodies, the government has organized immunization days since 1995 and no cases of polio have been reported in the country since 1994, the UN agency said.
But the virus may still be present in areas where immunization rates have been lower than average.
UNICEF said the "days of tranquility" were also to be used for an initiative to try to ensure all children aged between five and 14 attend school. An estimated 500,000 children under 14 do not attend, it added.
The Tamil Tiger rebels are fighting a drawn-out campaign for independence in the island's northern and eastern regions.
More than 60,000 people have been killed in the separatist conflict since 1972 – COLOMBO (AFP)
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