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US arrests over a dozen for Tamil Tiger support

by editor2
August 22nd, 2006

NEW YORK (Reuters) – More than a dozen people have been arrested in the United States on suspicion of trying to provide money and weapons including surface-to-air missiles to Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger rebels, U.S. officials said on Monday.

The arrests were made across the nation — including New York, New Jersey and Seattle, Washington — in the past several days following an undercover operation spanning more than 10 countries that probed support of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). More arrests were expected.

The rebel group, which has fought for two decades for an ethnic Tamil homeland, was designated by the United States in 1997 as a foreign terrorist organization.

The suspects shuttled between Canada, the United States and Britain and are accused of agreeing to buy military equipment, including shoulder-held surface-to-air missiles to shoot down Sri Lankan military jets, according to a complaint unsealed on Monday.

The complaint also accuses the suspects of raising money through “front charitable organizations,” money laundering and conspiring to help the rebel group “bribe its way off the Foreign Terrorist Organization list.”

“These defendants allegedly sought to obtain, through a variety of means, weapons and materials to carry out a deadly campaign of violence,” U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said in statement.

The charities investigated included the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization, which has transferred large sums of money from London to Sri Lanka, and the World Tamil Coordinating Committee, said Newark FBI spokesman Steve Siegel.

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