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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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