Sri Lankan government on Tuesday said it has launched a probe into the alleged involvement of army with a terror gang that has unleashed violence in Tamil-dominated Jaffna, the epicentre of the civil war which ended in 2009. Deputy Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene told Parliament that a former army man was among those arrested in connection with the latest wave of violence to hit Jaffna.
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“Among those arrested for involvement with this group was an ex-army man. He had left the army and worked with the group. It may be some ex-military men are involved. We are investigating,” Wijewardena said.
He was replying to a question by Opposition JVP in the light of a government spokesman Rajith Senaratne’s statement that the gang, known as Aava group, was a creation of former defence ministry chief Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.
The Opposition has alleged that Gotabhaya created the group with the involvement of elements from the army in the northern district.
Law and Order Minister Sagala Ratnayaka said 38 of the 62 identified members of the group were now in custody. Thirty two of them are facing judicial action and the group is not a terrorist outfit, he said.
“They have money and roam around in modern motorcycles,” Ratnayake said, adding that they wield swords.
He claimed the group got their first sword from a person who arrived from India and later swords were made locally.
Terrified Jaffna residents, who have previously suffered harassment from the Sinhalese-dominated military during and after the 30-year separatist war, have complained of intimidation by the group.
Last month, two Tamil students were shot dead by police and protests by the residents have raised tensions in the region.
The new government of President Maithripala Sirisena came to power on promise of reconciliation after the end of the war and has tried to restrict the involvement of military in day-to-day life of the Tamil-dominated region. But some allege that government troops still maintain large presence in the region.