Home Indian Muslim Chief arms procurer’s arrest a blow to LTTE: Indian officials

Chief arms procurer’s arrest a blow to LTTE: Indian officials

By M.R. Narayan Swamy, IANS

New Delhi : A Sri Lankan Tamil Tiger who headed the group’s global arms procuring unit has been reportedly arrested in Thailand after eluding security services of more than one country for over two decades, Indian officials said Tuesday.

Tharmalingam Shanmughan alias Kumaran Pathmanathan alias KP, 52, who has also been linked to the explosives used in the 1991 assassination of former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, was detained in Bangkok Monday evening, media reports said.

One Indian official said the reported arrest of KP, as he was known, was a major blow to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and would well be its worst setback since the 2004 defection of a top regional commander, Karuna.

One official described the man of middle class origin as an “elusive pimpernel”.

A trusted associate of LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran since the early 1980s, KP travelled around the world on several passports he held and helped build a strong global network that kept a steady flow of sophisticated arms and ammunition to the group even under the most adverse circumstances.

A senior official told IANS that Indian authorities were aware of the arrest. “It is a body blow to the LTTE. It could cut off LTTE’s arms supply lines,” he said.

Another official who could not confirm the arrest added: “If true, it is a big blow. He was one of their key persons. It will only add to the LTTE’s cup of woes.”

According to the officials, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which probed Gandhi’s assassination, linked the 2.4 mm Singapore Fragmentation Grenade (SFG) pellets in the suicide belt that killed the Indian leader to the highly secretive “KP Department”.

Also linked to KP, according to the CBI, was an AK 47 assault rifle and a 9 mm pistol that were found with Sivarasan, the LTTE operative who oversaw Gandhi’s killing, after he committed suicide near Bangalore in 1992 to evade capture.

“To that extent we have wanted to question KP,” one official said. “He is a suspect in the case.”

According to CBI officials, KP was believed to have passed a wireless message to a Sri Lankan in Tamil Nadu in late 1990 warning of an attack on “the Indian leadership”. Rajiv Gandhi was blown up in May 1991 near Chennai.

A man devoted to Prabhakaran and the cause of a Tamil homeland, KP reportedly spoke Tamil, Sinhalese, English and French. He was credited with the ability to mingle with people in various societies. It helped him to always remain several steps ahead of all his pursuers.

Hailing from Jaffna, the Tamil heartland, KP diligently put in place, from the 1980s, a well-oiled global infrastructure that helped the LTTE to grow as the world’s most heavily armed insurgent outfit, earning the grudging respect of even its foes.

Developing many contacts in India, both Tamil and non-Tamil, KP also set up the LTTE’s shipping line that ferried both legal cargo and illegal contraband, the officials said. The vessels operated even when the Indian troops fought the LTTE in 1987-90.

According to the officials, KP lived in India for a while in the 1980s, during which time he reportedly turned a farmhouse at Vellore in Tamil Nadu into a hideout and befriended a shipping magnate and his wife in Mumbai.

The CBI’s investigation into the Gandhi killing derailed much of the KP network in India but did not cripple it totally, the officials said.

According to Peter Chalk, an expert on terrorism, KP had bank accounts in Britain, Germany, Denmark, Greece and Australia and his main operational bases were located in Singapore, Myanmar, Thailand and South Africa.

According to Chalk, KP and his men got no formal military training but received “intensive instructions” in areas like document forgeries, gun running, communications, international freight shipping and investing.