COLOMBO: Sri Lankan police have arrested 60 people accused of trying to revive a separatist group behind a civil war that left tens of thousands dead, a spokesman said on Thursday.
The suspects, including 10 women, were detained in a crackdown over the past month and were being questioned about attempts to reorganize the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), police spokesman Ajith Rohana said.
“We are questioning them with a view to ensure that there is no resumption of war in this country and to prevent communal violence breaking out,” Rohana told reporters in Colombo.
The arrests announced Thursday are the largest in number since Sri Lanka lifted a state of emergency in August 2011.
Government forces declared an end to 37 years of war in 2009 after crushing the LTTE leadership which was fighting for a separate homeland for ethnic minority Tamils. Since then, no attacks have been carried out by the rebels, but authorities have issued warnings that they may try to regroup.
Rohana said the 60 suspects were being held at a detention center in the southern town of Boossa and another in Vavuniya, just outside the former northern war zone.
No other details were available about their arrest or what specifically they were accused of doing.
Announcement of the arrests came just two weeks after the UN’s human rights body ordered an international investigation into alleged war crimes committed by both sides in the final stages of the war.
Sri Lanka is also under international pressure to stop using its draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act that allows authorities to hold suspects for long periods without trial.
Opposition parties have accused the government of using tough anti-terror laws to stifle political dissent and the media, charges that authorities deny.
Last week, Colombo designated 15 foreign organizations run by ethnic Tamils as “terrorist groups,” accusing them of trying to revive the separatist war at home.
At least 100,000 people died during the violent struggle for a homeland for ethnic Tamils between 1972 and 2009, according to UN estimates.