Sri Lanka arrests top Tamil Tiger warlord

Karuna was number two of separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam


Afp November 29, 2016
Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan, widely known as Col Karuna, speaks during an interview in Colombo on November 12, 2008. PHOTO: REUTERS

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan police on Tuesday arrested a top Tamil warlord on corruption charges nearly two years after the defeat of his main ally, former president Mahinda Rajapakse.

Police said the Financial Crimes Investigation Division arrested Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan, better known by his nom de guerre Karuna, for misappropriating an unspecified amount of state money and other assets.

"Karuna was questioned about state vehicles and financial transactions," a police official said on condition of anonymity. "He was taken before a magistrate who remanded him in custody till December 7."

The 50-year-old Karuna was number two of the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) when he led a breakaway faction and sided with the then-government in 2004.

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His dramatic defection weakened the separatist who were known for their trademark suicide bombings. The group was eventually crushed five years later in 2009.

Rajapakse, who was president at the time, rewarded Karuna with a senior position in the ruling party as well as a junior minister post which he held till the fall of the former strongman president in January 2015 elections.

During his stint with the LTTE, Karuna was accused but never prosecuted for the killing of some 600 policemen who surrendered to the rebels in 1990 just as a peace agreement was unravelling.

The UN had accused Karuna of recruiting child soldiers and using some of them as suicide bombers during the island's decades-long Tamil separatist war which claimed over 100,000 lives.

During Rajapakse's tenure, his administration had arranged for Karuna to travel to London on a false passport apparently to escape attacks from his erstwhile comrades.

He was caught by British authorities who jailed him for nine months and then deported him to Sri Lanka where Rajapakse absorbed him into the government.

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