The leader of the US-arm of Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers had been arrested in New York for supporting "terror" activities on the island, the US embassy in Colombo said in a statement yesterday.
Karunakaran Kandasamy, also known as Karuna and the main US representative of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), was charged on Wednesday in Queens, New York, and was scheduled to be taken before a magistrate, the embassy said.
"The arrest is the latest in ongoing investigation of [the] terrorist group's reliance on individuals in the US as a major source for money, arms, and military technology," the statement said.
If convicted, Kandasamy faces a maximum sentence of 15 years imprisonment, the statement added.
It said the LTTE, designated a foreign terrorist organisation by the US State Department since October 1997, has covertly operated within the country "to further its war of terror in Sri Lanka and elsewhere."
"We refuse to allow this to continue," the statement quoted US attorney Roslynn Mauskopf as saying.
FBI investigator Mark Mershon said the suspect "hasn't merely supported the Tamil Tigers' cause, he orchestrated US support."
"We can no sooner allow terrorists to raise funds here than we would allow them to carry out acts of terrorism here," Mershon was quoted as saying.
According to the complaint, the LTTE relies on sympathetic Tamil expatriates residing in the US, Canada, Britain, Australia, France, and several other countries to raise and launder money, smuggle arms, explosives, equipment, and technology into LTTE-controlled territory, obtain intelligence about the Sri Lankan government and spread propaganda.
Eleven people were previously indicted in New York on charges relating to the material support of the LTTE, the US embassy said.
The charges include the procurement of military arms and technology, attempting to bribe purported US State Department officials to remove the LTTE from its terrorist list and to sell classified intelligence concerning the LTTE, fundraising, and the LTTE's covert payment of a US Congressman's trip to LTTE-controlled territory.
The Tiger rebels controls large parts of Sri Lanka's embattled north where they run a de facto separate state. More than 60,000 people have been killed in the LTTE's drawn out separatist campaign since 1972.
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