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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 June 2007, 10:41 GMT 11:41 UK
Police evict Tamils from Colombo
Evicted Sri Lankan woman
Human rights groups have condemned the evictions
Police in Sri Lanka have forced hundreds of the minority Tamil community out of the capital Colombo for what they say are security reasons.

They launched overnight raids in Tamil areas of the city and forced guests staying in budget hotels onto buses.

Police said that Tamils who were in the capital "without valid reasons" were made to board buses bound for the north and east of the island.

Police said that the move was necessary amid fears of renewed civil war.

'Bad example'

They said that the crackdown was part of continuing efforts to stop the Tamil Tigers infiltrating the city of 600,000 people.

They also said the measure was being taken for the safety of the Tamil community amid a rash of abductions across Colombo blamed on the rebels and the security forces.

Evicted Sri Lankan woman
Women and children were among those forced to leave

A statement released by the government said that the evictions were made "without communal considerations".

It said they were directed at anyone occupying lodgings or temporary residences in Colombo and cannot provide valid reasons for doing so.

"There have been instances where some 'lodgers' have lived in the Colombo area for over six months without making any progress, on the pretext that someone has to obtain his or her identity card or passport," the statement said.

"The resulting action by the police is required considering security demands such as the recent Tamil Tiger bomb explosions resulting in several innocent lives lost, and severe damage to property.

"Investigations have also confirmed that those responsible for these brutal killings have hatched their brutal plans and executed them from these lodgings," the statement said.

It said that a total of 376 persons - 291 males and 85 females - have left in seven buses for destinations in the north and east.

The Tamil Tigers have so far not commented on the evictions, but mainstream Tamil political leaders have condemned it.

"This operation is a very bad example," Tamil political leader Dharmalingam Sithadthan told the AFP news agency.

"It is OK for the Tamil Tigers to indulge in this sort of ethnic cleaning because they have no moral responsibility, but a government can't behave like this," he said.

'Serious violation'

Colombo Inspector General of police Rohan Abeywardene told Reuters that some people who had no valid reasons to be in Colombo were "just hanging around".

"They have been requested to leave and told they had better get back to their own villages," he said.

Correspondents say that hundreds of Tamils, many from impoverished rural areas, live in boarding houses in Colombo while they seek work at home or abroad.

Evicted Sri Lankan Tamil girl
The government says the move is necessary for the safety of Tamils

Many ethnic Tamils complain they have been deliberately targeted by the security forces, detained and searched.

One man forced to board one of the buses called the private local radio station Sirisa FM from a mobile phone.

"The police came and took us and put everyone on the bus," he said, saying the bus was about 32km (20 miles) outside the capital, heading northeast.

"We don't know where we are being taken."

Human rights campaigners and other observers say they are shocked at what they say is a serious violation of human rights.

"This is almost like a variation of ethnic cleansing," Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu of the independent Centre for Policy Alternatives think-tank told Reuters.

"It is quite appalling."

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