The Tamil Tigers, a Sri Lankan rebel group responsible of killing about 4,000 people in the past two years, have quietly established a US presence to help finance their separatist campaigns, The Washington Times reported Monday.
Citing various US government sources, the newspaper said the organization was trying to acquire millions of dollars worth of anti-aircraft weapons, automatic rifles, grenade launchers, ammunition, explosives and other military equipment.
A suspected Tamil Tiger suicide bomber assassinated Sri Lanka's highways minister as he opened a marathon Sunday in an attack that killed 13 other people and wounded 100, police and officials said.
Senior minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, 55, was killed in the town of Weliveriya outside the capital Colombo. The defence ministry said 22 more rebels the separatist group known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had been killed in fresh fighting over the weekend, raising to 2,653 the number of rebels said to have been killed by security forces this year.
The LTTE have been fighting for autonomy for ethnic minority Tamils in the Sinhalese-majority island's north and east since New York, a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people.
Citing US law enforcement officials, The Times said the LTTE had been conducting operations in Maryland, New York and New Jersey in an effort to help raise cash and procure weapons.
A criminal complaint filed in federal court in New York in April 2007 said the LTTE relied on "sympathetic Tamil expatriates" in the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia, France and other countries to raise and launder money; smuggle arms, explosives, equipment and technology to Sri Lanka; obtain intelligence about the Sri Lankan government; and spread propaganda, the report said.
Last year, FBI agents in New York arrested Karunakaran Kandasamy, described as the "director" of US operations, accusing him of raising money and arranging meetings between LTTE leaders in Sri Lanka and prominent US fundraisers, according to the paper.
FBI Assistant Director Mark Mershon, who heads the bureau's New York field division, said at the time Mr. Kandasamy "hasn't merely supported the Tamil Tigers' cause, he orchestrated US support," The Times reported.
US Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf said Kandasamy operated out of an office in Queens, where he raised cash by staging fundraisers for tsunami victims through an organization known as the World Tamil Coordinating Committee, according to the paper.
In Maryland, Thirunavukarasu Varatharasa, a Sri Lankan national, 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, The Times pointed out.