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Sri Lankan army questions captured Tamil rebel leader


Colombo : Kumaran Pathmanathan, the new leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebel movement, has been arrested and is being questioned, Sri Lankan defence ministry spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said Friday.

He said Pathmanathan, also known as KP or Selvaras, was arrested Thursday in a country in the “Asian region”, but declined to name the country, saying that it would hamper the investigation.

Earlier reports said the newly-designated rebel leader was arrested in Thailand, but the Sri Lankan High Commission in Bangkok denied the report.

Thai police said he was arrested in Singapore and only transited through Bangkok early Friday en route to Colombo. Other reports suggested he was nabbed in Malaysia.

However, Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs, denied its involvement in the arrest.

“There is no basis to the claim in media reports that the LTTE leader Selvarasa Pathmanathan has been captured in Singapore,” a ministry official said.

“After the LTTE was crushed they hoped that the movement could be revived with the emergence of Pathmanathan, but we have proved that we have the capability of getting to them wherever they emerge,” Rambukwella said.

Remnants of the Tamil rebel movement appointed Pathmanathan as their leader last month after they were defeated by the Sri Lankan Army and the previous rebel commander, Velupillai Prabhakaran, was killed in battle May 18.

“There were some doubts about the government’s achievements of crushing the LTTE after Pathmanathan surfaced. Now there can’t be any doubts about that,” he said.

Pathmanathan had been known as the rebel movement’s main arms procurement agent and had been operating in Thailand and other countries, although his recent whereabouts had not been known.

He is also wanted by India in connection with the assassination of former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.

“We are willing to consider any request from any country keeping with the conventions or treaties we have with them to allow Pathmananthan to be questioned,” Rambukwella said.

He said that Pathmanathan was being questioned by local defence authorities but did not disclose details of confessions or statements made by the rebel leader.

Pathmanathan has a Thai wife and in the past had often been in and out of Thailand.

In a statement issued last month, the LTTE rebels said they had set up a new headquarters and formed sector-based working groups and an executive committee to continue their struggle for a separate homeland for Sri Lanka’s minority Tamils. They did not say where their new headquarters was located.

The Sri Lankan government has vowed not to allow the rebel movement to rise again after it killed its entire leadership to end a 26-year-long armed conflict in the northern and eastern parts of the country.

About 10,000 rebels are said to have been arrested or surrendered to security forces, and some of them are currently undergoing rehabilitation, the government said. Others are to be charged with crimes.