Sri Lanka on Friday said that 9,900 war-displaced people housed at the Menik Farm complex in Vavuniya had been sent back to their hometowns.

A statement from the government said the resettlement was spearheaded by Special Presidential Adviser and MP Basil Rajapaksa, Chairman of the Northern Task Force (NTF).

"The hometowns they reach are now cleared of mines buried by the LTTE during the war period. Among those released were 6,838 to Jaffna in the north and 2,170 to Trincomalee, 683 to Batticaloa and 274 to Ampara in the east," said the statement.

Meanwhile, in an interview with a leading European journal, President Mahinda Rajapaksa defended himself against Western allegations of negligence of human rights and called on the West to help Sri Lanka rebuild and resettle the people affected by the 30-year-long war against terror in the country.

Asked how he would restore peace in the country, President Rajapaksa said absolute priority was to permitting displaced people to go back to their villages, especially in the North. "We first need to finish the mine clearance for people to be able to go back home and cultivate their land. Then, we need to develop the country and we are calling upon foreign investors to do so."

In another development, two LTTE leaders, Daya Master and George, who were arrested after they surrendered to forces during the last phase of Eelam War IV, were on Friday released on bail by a court here.

The duo was released on bail by Colombo chief magistrate Nishantha Hapuarachchi.

Velayutham Dayanithi alias Daya Master was the media coordinator of the LTTE and George was the official interpreter of slain LTTE political head S.P. Thamilchelavan.

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