Tamil Tigers open branches in 12 countries: daily

April 7th, 2008 - 9:07 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, April 7 (IANS) Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers have quietly established a presence in a dozen countries including the US to help bankroll its secessionist campaign, the Washington Times reported Monday. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), designated as terrorists by the State Department in 1997, has established “branches” in at least 12 countries, it said citing federal law enforcement authorities.

The LTTE’s expansion plans include operations in Maryland, New York and New Jersey in an effort to help raise cash and procure weapons, it said.

The LTTE seeks to purchase millions of dollars worth of anti-aircraft weapons, automatic rifles, grenade launchers, ammunition, explosives and other military equipment.

“Its ruthless tactics have inspired terrorist networks worldwide, including Al Qaeda in Iraq,” the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has said, adding the group had “placed operatives right here in our own back yard, discreetly raising money to fund its bloody terrorist campaign overseas”.

The US operatives have raised funds under a variety of cover organisations, often posing as charities, the Times said citing the FBI. It said a great deal of money was raised after the 2004 tsunami that devastated Sri Lanka.

In Maryland, Sri Lankan Thirunavukarasu Varatharasa was sentenced in January to 57 months in prison on charges of conspiracy to provide support to the LTTE and the attempted exportation of arms and munitions.

A criminal complaint said Varatharasa conspired to export $900,000 worth of machine guns, ammunition, surface-to-air missiles, night-vision goggles and other military weapons to Sri Lanka.

A co-conspirator, Haniffa Osman, who lives in Singapore, even travelled to Baltimore to test fire some of the weapons at a range in Havre de Grace with undercover US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

“They had a well-organised establishment, but working with the Joint Terrorism Task Forces, we took a good bite out of them with the last several cases,” the Washington Times said citing FBI spokesman Richard Kolko.

However, he said the Tigers have “more fundraising and organisational desires” in the US.

“Fortunately, we haven’t seen a strong will to attack in the US, but that’s not (impossible),” he said. “That’s why we have to stay on top of it.”

The LTTE may have learned a lesson from the US arrests and pulled its operatives out, the US daily cited Peter Chalk, a terrorism and insurgency analyst at Rand Corp, as saying.

He said the US venture was “probably an experiment”, adding the group was “smart enough to learn from its mistakes”.

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