A senior U.N. official says 5,000 suspected ex-combatants remain in Sri Lankan camps 21 months after a quarter-century civil war ended. Neil Buhne said Friday those ex-combatants are suspected loyalists to separatist Tamil Tiger rebels defeated in May 2009.
He says they remain in camps beyond reach of U.N. and Red Cross officials, but another 5,000 suspected ex-combatants were released. Buhne spoke on his last day as head of the U.N. mission in Sri Lanka. The government carved the camps out of the jungles of northern Sri Lanka to hold 300,000 ethnic Tamil civilians displaced by civil war and screen out former rebels who could stir up trouble. Buhne says another 18,000 Tamils remain in so-called welfare centers because of land mines.