Sri Lanka Tea Workers Arrested

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Thirty four civilians were taken into custody in a cordon and search operation conducted by the government security forces at Gampaha town from Saturday night till Sunday morning, said TamilNet yesterday.

Twenty nine of those arrested are Tamils, the majority of them plantation workers. Three are Muslims and two are Sinhalese, media sources said quoting police.

Police said all are being detained in respective police stations and are being interrogated as they failed to prove their identity and provide satisfactory reason for their stay in the location.

All would be produced in law courts once the investigation is completed, police said.

Police further said frequent cordon and search operations are to be conducted in the future also to prevent infiltration by strangers to Gampaha town.

Earlier, the Colombo based Civil Monitoring Committee (CMC) reported that it has received 115 complaints regarding missing persons in the year 2007 in Colombo alone.

There was a decline in the number of abductions in the beginning of the New Year but it has increased in February.

A 22-year-old youth has been reported missing since Saturday, according to a complaint made to the Grandpass Police.

Asirwatham Sooriyakumar, a native of Ki’linochchi, has been staying in Grandpass, Colombo, for several years and was working as photographer.

Eyewitnesses said the victim was abducted by men who arrived in a white coloured van along Wales Mawatte in Colombo, the TamilNet report concluded.

• Second news story

NO 45-MINUTE CLAIM IN DRAFT DOSSIER

THERE is no evidence of the notorious ‘45-minute’ claim used by the Blair government to justify the Iraq war in a draft of the ‘Iraq dossier’ made public yesterday.

Weapons expert Dr David Kelly was found dead near his Oxfordshire home after he was revealed to be the source of former BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan’s report that the dossier had been ‘sexed up’, to try and make it more convincing.

Dr Kelly was said to have committed suicide.

The draft of the dossier was published yesterday after a campaign for its release under the Freedom of Information laws.

It says: ‘We cannot allow Iraq to break out of containment, as it is currently seeking to do. Time is short. . .’

It adds: ‘Our judgement, based on these and other intelligence sources (?), is that Iraq . . .

‘– is developing as a priority longer-range missile systems capable of threatening NATO (Greece and Turkey?)’.

But there is no mention in the document of Iraq being capable of firing a missile at the British military base in Cyprus within 45 minutes.