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Top LTTE arms procurer held?

The SL government is awaiting official confirmation of the “arrest” of top LTTE arms procurer and smuggler, reports PK Balachandran.

world Updated: Sep 12, 2007 03:04 IST
PK Balachandran

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. (In New Delhi, a top CBI official said the agency was trying to verify whether KP had been detained or arrested. “Our people are trying to find out,” the official added.

(“I have checked with all divisions concerned. Nobody has information about arresting any Sri Lankan man,” Maj. Gen. Trithot Ronnaritwichai, deputy chief of Thailand’s Special Branch police, which deals with matters concerning foreigners and terrorism, was quoted as saying by AP) 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.

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.

KP’s “arrest” 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.

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.

KP has been using Thailand as a major trans-shipment 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