Tamil living in Norway peggedas new militant leader of LTTE

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Tamil activists residing in Norway demonstrated throughout the winter and spring, protesting the civil war in Sri Lanka and pleading for a separate homeland on the island off southern India. Now one of them allegedly is poised to take over as a new militant leader of the separatist group LTTE. Calls were made Thursday for his extradition.

Newspaper Aftenposten didn’t identify him in a front-page story on Wednesday, but reported that Norwegian officials are aware of claims that he’s building up a new LTTE-Tamil Tiger movement that’s ready to resort to more violence.

“We have registered the reports, but we know little about what’s true and what’s not,” said Erik Solheim, a government minister who was the UN’s special envoy to Sri Lanka and tried to broker peace between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government for many years.

Solheim told Aftenposten that there is “zero appetite internationally” for any new, violent struggle by a re-built LTTE.Extradition calls

Palitha Kohona of Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry said it was disturbing to hear that a Tamil living in Norway is being mentioned as a new leader for the LTTE, which Sri Lanka long has claimed is a terrorist organization.

“If these claims are true, it’s natural that we will demand that he be extradited to Sri Lanka,” Kohona told Aftenposten on Thursday.

The former militant leader of the LTTE, Velupillai Prabhakaran, was killed by Sri Lankan government forces as the war wound down in May. He was succeeded by a more moderate leader, Kumaran Pathmanathan (KP), but KP was reportedly arrested by Sri Lankan government agents in Malaysia last week.

Now there’s speculation that the LTTE’s more militant faction will seize power once again, led by the Tamil now said to be residing in western Norway. Indian security analyst Rahul Bhonsle described him to Aftenposten as a “dangerous man,” and thinks it’s only a matter of time before the Tamil Tigers resume bombings in the Sri Lankan capital to demonstrate that the war isn’t over.

‘Never been a guerrilla’

The wife of the alleged new leader confirmed her husband was involved in earlier LTTE operations, but she denied he’s poised to be the new leader of the group and resort to violence.

She told Aftenposten her husband is no longer politically active and that she doesn’t know why he’s being mentioned “by so many.” She said she was considering reporting those spreading such an “evil campaign” to the police.

“I’ve never been a guerrilla soldier and I’ve hardly ever touched a weapon,” says the man himself, who moved to Norway in 2005. He also confirms he traveled to Norway in 2004 with an LTTE delegation, but only as a data expert.

Both he and his wife say they’re “shocked” by reports of his involvement with LTTE, but say they both want freedom for the Tamil people. “It’s sad what’s happening, with thousands interned in camps under terrible conditions, without us being able to help them,” he said.

Click here to see Aftenposten’s story (in Norwegian).