The Sri Lankan government is awaiting official confirmation of the arrest of top LTTE arms procurer and smuggler, Kumaran Pathmanathan, better known as KP, in Bangkok on Monday.
"We have only seen media reports about his arrest. We are yet to get confirmation," the Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary, Dr Palitha Kohona, told Hindustan Times on Tuesday.
Sri Lankan officials say that if indeed KP has been arrested, it is "absolutely certain" that a "major dent" has been made in the LTTE's multi-million dollar arms procurement network.
This is bound to affect the LTTE's military capability both in the short and the long run. KP, after all, has for decades been the kingpin of the illegal and clandestine racket and is also one of the most trusted men in Tiger chieftain Velupillai Prabhakaran's inner circle.
"If he has been arrested, it shows that the Sri Lankan government is succeeding in its efforts to get other countries to crackdown on the LTTE financial and arms procurement networks. Due to our intense efforts, 17 LTTE operatives were arrested in the US, 14 in France, three in Australia and two in the UK .Last week three LTTE operatives were extradited to Sri Lanka from Thailand," Foreign Secretary Kohona said.
The 1955 born KP from Jaffna in North Sri Lanka, is said to have had over 20 passports in at least five different names. A globe trotter, he is said to have operated with ease from Bangkok, London, Frankfurt, Athens, Australia and Cambodia.
He is believed to have been in Mumbai at the time of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in Tamil Nadu on May 21, 1991.He escaped within five days of the event when he got wind of the manhunt for him.
However, KP was not directly linked to the assassination. He was not among the 41 persons against whom the Special Investigating Team filed a charge sheet. Later, the CBI had wanted him for arms smuggling, and Interpol's assistance was sought to arrest him.
Since 1991, the Indian Navy and agencies had been keeping a tab on KP and the LTTE's arms procurement and smuggling activities and had helped the Sri Lankan government destroy some gun running ships with timely intelligence.
In one case in 1993, the Indian Navy intercepted an arms ship with the top leader Kittu on board off the Indian coast. When challenged, Kittu ordered the blowing up of the ship and went down with it.
KP has been using Thailand as a major transshipment point for weapons acquired from war-torn Cambodia and other places across the globe. He is in charge of the LTTE's fleet of ships, which transport the arms apart from legitimate cargo. He has been adept at exploiting rampant corruption in Third World countries like Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia to feed the LTTE's gargantuan appetite for sophisticated arms.
However, three to four years ago, there were reports that Prabhakaran and KP had fallen out. Media reports said that the seizures and destruction of arms vessels had come for adverse comment from the Tiger chieftain.
But in 2003 there were reports that Prabhakaran was trying to rehabilitate KP by making him a member of the LTTE's team for the peace talks with the Sri Lankan government. The LTTE had tried to push a person called Shanmugam Kumaran Tharmalingam, who, the Sri Lankan government suspected, was none other than KP. KP's real name is Tharmalingam Shanmugam Kumaran!