Torture chambers allegedly used by Tamil Tigers to punish escaping rebels and informers, including women fighters, have been found at rebel camps in eastern Sri Lanka, the Defence Ministry said.
The camps were uncovered by a Special Task Force, comprising of specially trained anti-terrorist commandoes who last week seized control of four rebel bases and seven smaller camps in the eastern Amparai district, the Media Center for National Security said in a report posted on its website late on Monday.
At one of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam camps "torture chambers and lockups were established to torture escapees and informers including women cadres," it said.
The alleged torture cells were small, said the report, adding that "many of the surrendered LTTE child cadres have repeatedly revealed the harassment meted out to them by the LTTE if they are caught escaping."
One camp had a well maintained cemetery built by the rebels for their fallen cadres, said the statement.
The website carried photographs of the cells. The rebels denied the report, saying it was done to damage their reputation.
"The Sri Lankan state is now in the process of tarnishing the image of our liberation organisation," rebel spokesman, Rasiah Ilanthirayan said from rebel headquarters in Kilinochchi.
"We do not run torture cells anywhere. The Sri Lankan troops are there for more than a week and they have made up the place in such a manner to look like that," Ilanthirayan said when referred to the photos showing the cells.
The Special Task Force launched a campaign on January 4 called "Niyathai Jaya," which translates from the Sinhala language as "Sure Victory," aimed at clearing up rebels bases in Amparai.
After some initial success, landmines planted by the fleeing rebels were hampering the progress of the task force.
Four STF personnel were wounded in land mine blasts over several days, said the statement.
Military spokesman Brig Prasad Samarasinghe said on Monday that five rebels had accepted the armed forces' call to surrender and he urged others to turn themselves in.
The rebels on Monday ridiculed the idea. However, they conceded that government forces had taken some rebel-held areas in Amparai, but that it was not important because the rebels are constantly on the move.
The rebels have been fighting for over 20 years for a separate homeland for the country's 3.1 million minority Tamils, who have suffered decades of discrimination by the majority Sinhalese.
Separately, two policemen were killed when suspected Tamil rebels triggered a bomb strapped to a bicycle in northern Vavuniya on Tuesday, military spokesman, Samarasinghe said. The policemen were on routine patrol duty.
Samarasinghe said he suspected Tamil rebels were behind the blast, but rebel spokesman Ilanthirayan denied involvement.
Sri Lankan security forces have stepped up security measures in the north and the east, where the insurgents want to set up their homeland.
Although both sides claim to be adhering to a Norwegian-brokered 2002 ceasefire, violence has escalated since late 2005, with more than 3,600 people killed last year alone.