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"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C

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Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam

Sri Lanka Targets Tamil Tigers' Overseas Support Network

Peter Wancott,
Wall Street Journal, 11 June 2009

COLOMBO -- After routing the Tamil Tigers at home, the Sri Lankan government has set its sights on destroying the group's network overseas -- an effort that involves working closely with countries that were critical of Sri Lanka's tough tactics during the war.

In recent weeks, Sri Lankan officials have been sifting through computer files, business cards and daily schedules taken from Tamil Tiger offices in the country's north during this year's military offensive. The intelligence haul, officials say, is helping pinpoint sources of financial support and weapons that flowed to the separatist rebels from overseas.

That supply network appears in some disarray after Tiger leaders in Sri Lanka, including chief Velupillai Prabhakaran, were killed, say two Sri Lankan officials involved in the investigations. Now, top members of the Tamil diaspora are jockeying to take the reins of the movement, the officials say. "Everything will be focused on the international arena," said one Ministry of Defense official. "They are losing control of their activities."

Sri Lanka's civil war -- fought off and on since 1983 -- threatened to split the country along ethnic lines. The Tigers, purporting to represent Sri Lanka's mostly Hindu Tamils, battled for a separate state against the government, which is largely Sinhalese and Buddhist. Money and arms from the diaspora sustained the 26-year conflict.

The U.S. and other countries have labeled the Tamil Tigers a foreign terrorist organization for a raft of suicide bombings and political assassinations.

Sri Lanka's bid to dismantle the Tigers' overseas network got a boost Tuesday, as four people pleaded guilty to providing material support to the Tamil Tigers, among other crimes, in a Brooklyn, N.Y., court, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The defendants include the head of the Tigers' U.S. operations, Karunakaran Kandasamy. Federal prosecutors say Mr. Kandasamy supervised fund raising and laundered donations through an international charity front called the Tamils Rehabilitation Organization. In 2007, the U.S. Department of the Treasury designated the Tamils Rehabilitation Organization "a front to facilitate fund raising and procurement" for the Tigers. Mr. Kandasamy faces up to 20 years in prison, the Justice Department statement said.

Mr. Kandasamy "has accepted responsibility for his actions," defense attorney Charles A. Ross said Wednesday. Mr. Ross expressed hope his client would receive "a fair and merciful sentence," given Mr. Kandasamy's poor health.

The global scope of the investigation, from Hindu temples in Europe to charities in North America, shows the Tigers rival the complexity of prominent Islamic terror groups.

But officials of the tiny island nation face formidable obstacles as they attempt to sift through illicit and legitimate activities of 1.2 million Tamils living outside Sri Lanka. Some analysts say the Sri Lankan government doesn't have the manpower and diplomatic muscle to track Tamil Tigers and persuade other countries to make arrests, unlike the U.S. in its hunt for al Qaeda operatives.

"There has been a lack of resources and lack of understanding of the network," says Shanaka Jayasekara, an expert on the Tamil Tigers at Macquarie University's Centre for Policing, Intelligence and Counterterrorism in Sydney. "It's extremely difficult to know how it operates."

At the same time, Sri Lanka must overcome strained ties with some powerful allies. The U.K. is calling for investigations into possible war crimes by the Sri Lanka military after heavy civilian casualties during the civil war. The U.S. has expressed reservations about Sri Lanka receiving an emergency loan from the International Monetary Fund.

The Sri Lankan government has rebuffed proposed inquiries into the military's conduct, and has turned to countries less critical of its human-rights record -- such as Iran and China -- for financial help.

Sri Lanka officials say that for the past decade, Europe -- particularly France and the U.K. -- has been a base for Tiger fund raising and propaganda. The Sri Lankan government recently asked members of the European Union to scrutinize financial statements from offices of the Tamils Rehabilitation Organization to verify whether funds the group said it raised for tsunami relief actually went to victims.

In 2007, French antiterrorist police agents detained 17 people in Paris and neighboring areas suspected of funneling cash to the Tamil Tiger rebels. Sri Lankan officials are also monitoring satellite television programs that they believe help the Tamil diaspora raise money and enlist support of human-rights activists, who in turn put pressure on the government in Colombo.

A number of such satellite channels have been set up -- and abruptly shut down -- in countries including France and Serbia, according to a Sri Lankan government report. A Sri Lankan official says the Tamil Tigers were able to access satellite links to broadcast from Paris. Intelsat Ltd., a satellite-service provider, said in a 2007 statement that the Tigers used one of its satellites without permission before the company said it acted to halt transmissions.

Tuesday's guilty pleas in the U.S. offer a glimpse of the Tigers' alleged foreign support. One defendant was involved in global procurement of improvised explosive devices, missiles, machine guns and radar, according to the statement from the Department of Justice. He and another defendant also tried to bribe "purported U.S. State Department officials" to remove the Tamil Tigers from the list of foreign terrorist organizations, the statement said.

Sri Lankan officials are pressing Interpol, the international police organization, and countries in Southeast Asia to help locate and arrest a Sri Lankan fugitive known as Kumaran Pathmanathan, or KP. In January, the Tamil Tigers appointed KP head of their international operations.

After Mr. Prabhakaran's death last month, KP has emerged as a spokesman for the separatist movement. The 54-year old businessman is already wanted by Interpol for crimes involving weapons, explosives and terrorism, according to a notice on its Web site.

-Vibhuti Agarwal in New Delhi contributed to this article.

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