There was a dramatic escalation in political killings, especially in the east, following the split in the LTTE. From April onwards an increasing number of civilians, including members of opposition Tamil groups, were assassinated by the LTTE and Colonel Karuna’s supporters. Some of these killings took place in government-controlled territory or near Sri Lankan Army (SLA) checkpoints, leading the LTTE to accuse the SLA of providing support to Colonel Karuna’s faction. The continued killings and intimidation created an atmosphere of fear among the civilian population in the east as well as putting the ceasefire under strain. A number of people were also killed in Colombo.
- On 31 May journalist Aiyathurai Nadesan was shot and killed on his way to work in Batticaloa. It was believed that Colonel Karuna’s supporters carried out the killing.
- On 8 July the LTTE publicly executed Balasuntaram Sritharan and Thillaiampalam Sundararajan in the eastern village of Illuppaiadaichenai. In a statement released by its Batticaloa-Amparai political wing, the LTTE claimed the two men had been sentenced to death as “traitors”.
- On 10 August Balanadarajah Iyer, a senior EPDP spokesman, was shot and killed in Wellawatte, Colombo. It was believed that the LTTE carried out the killing.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported the recruitment of 448 children as soldiers in the first half of 2004, while acknowledging that the actual figure was probably far higher.
It was reported that a large number of child soldiers were deployed in the fighting between the LTTE and the Karuna faction in April and that there were some child casualties. Following the fighting, over 1,600 child soldiers from the east, who had fought alongside Colonel Karuna, were disbanded and spontaneously returned to their homes. In May and June it was reported that the LTTE were re-recruiting many of these demobilized children, using tactics of intimidation, abduction and violence. Parents in the east, angry that their children had been used in internecine fighting, attempted to mobilize in an effort to resist re-recruitment. There was also an increase in child recruitment in the north in mid-2004 as the LTTE tried to make up for the large number of cadres it had lost during the split.