Sri Lanka releases 1,500 prisoners for anniversary

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka  — Sri Lanka released 1,500 prisoners to mark its anniversary of independence.
The government's information department said that the prisoners to be released Friday include former separatist guerrillas captured after the end of Sri Lanka's civil war in May 2009.
Most of the prisoners given amnesty were convicted of minor offenses and have been recommended for release by prison officials.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa said in an address to the nation that his country's new challenge is to make economic progress after decades of war.
Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon, became independent from the British Empire on February 4, 1948 after more than four centuries under the rule of the Portuguese, Dutch and the British.