BY JIM KOURI
Two alleged operatives of the Sri Lanka-based terrorist group, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a designated foreign terrorist organization popularly referred to as the Tamil Tigers, were arraigned Thursday before United States Magistrate Judge Lois Bloom at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, N.Y., following their extradition from Canada.
In 1997, the LTTE was designated by the U.S. State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and therefore may not legally raise money or procure equipment or materials in the United States.
Piratheepan Nadarajah, 36, was charged with conspiring and attempting to acquire $1 million worth of anti-aircraft missiles, missile launchers, and other military equipment and conspiring and attempting to provide material support to the LTTE. Meanwhile, Suresh Sriskandarajah, 32, was charged with conspiring to provide material support to the LTTE and dealing in the property of a specially designated terrorist group.
At the request of the United States, Nadarajah and Sriskandarajah were arrested in Canada for the purpose of extraditing both suspects to the United States.
According to the U.S. Justice Department records, the LTTE is the only terrorist group in the world that at one time possessed its own ‘Military’ — the Tigers (infantry), the Sea Tigers (sea wing) and Air Tigers (air wing).
It started its paramilitary campaign in Sri Lanka for a separate Tamil homeland in 1983. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in its January 10, 2008 report said that the LTTE is one of the most dangerous and deadly extremist outfits in the world and the nations should be concerned about the outfit as they had ‘inspired’ networks worldwide, including al-Qaeda in Iraq.
As detailed in court filings, between July 1, 2006 and August 19, 2006, Nadarajah and several co-conspirators engaged in negotiations with an undercover FBI agent to purchase and export $1 million worth of high-powered weapons and military equipment for the LTTE, including 20 SA-18 heat-seeking, surface-to-air, anti-aircraft missiles; 10 missile launchers; and 500 AK-47s.
Nadarajah and his associates attempted to acquire these weapons at the direction of senior LTTE leadership in Sri Lanka, including Pottu Amman, then the LTTE’s chief of intelligence and procurement and the top deputy to then-LTTE leader Velupillai Prabakharan. The anti-aircraft weapons were to be used by the LTTE to shoot down Sri Lankan military aircraft.
Sriskandarajah used students as couriers to smuggle prohibited items into territory in Sri Lanka that at the time was controlled by the LTTE. Additionally, Sriskandarajah helped the LTTE in laundering their proceeds in the United States and elsewhere.
Over the past 20 years, the LTTE has conducted approximately 200 suicide bombings resulting in the deaths of hundreds of victims, and has carried out numerous political assassinations, including the May 1991 assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi; the 1993 assassination of the President of Sri Lanka, Ranasinghe Premadasa; the July 1999 assassination of Neelan Thiruchelvam, a member of the Sri Lankan parliament; the June 2000 assassination of C.V. Goonaratne, the Sri Lankan Industry Minister, and other terrorist acts, according to the FBI.
If convicted of all charges, Nadarajah faces a minimum sentence of 25 years and a maximum sentence of life in prison, and Sriskandarajah faces a maximum sentence of 25 years of imprisonment.
The Moral Liberal Contributing Editor, Jim Kouri, CPP, is the fifth Vice President and Public Information Officer of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, has served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. Contact Jim.