Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels release Sri Lankan policeman as goodwill gesture

Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels on Thursday freed a policeman held for more than four months in what they described as a goodwill gesture after agreeing to return to peace talks. But the rebels continued to hold two other policemen who were also arrested along with K.A.D. Sarath, the freed officer, European cease-fire monitors said.

The deputy chief of the rebels' political wing, Thangan, handed over Sarath to a representative of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission in Kilinochchi, a northern rebel stronghold. The monitors appealed to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to immediately release the other two officers.

"We would like to express our appreciation to the LTTE for releasing the police officer but it is important to not forget that the other two police officers remain in LTTE detention," the monitors said in a statement.

Thangan, who uses only one name, said the release came in response to a request for Sarath's freedom made by Norwegian peace envoy Erik Solheim during a meeting with rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran on Wednesday.

Prabhakaran "has decided to release Sarath as a goodwill gesture. In the same manner we expect that the government will reciprocate and release our cadres and supporters in their custody," Thangan said. Sarath was captured by the rebels on Sept. 9 as he was pursuing a suspected British pedophile along with two male colleagues, two policewomen, two Catholic priests and a child's rights investigator who were also captured near Mannar on the northwestern coast.

All but Sarath and the two other male police officers were subsequently released. The rebels claimed the group entered their territory without authorization. Although the government controls Mannar, about 220 kilometers (135 miles) north of Colombo, the rebels run their own administration in nearby areas, reports the AP. I.L.

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