The Malaysian Police in a sweeping counter terrorist operation launched simultaneously on Thursday July 3rd 2014 arrested four persons of Sri Lankan origin suspected of terrorist activity with alleged links to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE) and an Islamic extremist group.
It is learnt reliably that one of those arrested is a Sinhalese and another a Sri Lankan Muslim while the other two arrested are Sri Lankan Tamils.
Malaysian newspapers reported that the four arrested persons are aged 32,37,42 and 45.
Operatives of the Malaysian Police Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division(SB-CTD) in a coordinated operation launched simultaneously arrested the four suspects in the locations of Serdang,Sentul,Sungai Besi and Central Kuala Lumpur.
According to informed sources the operation was conducted on the basis of reliable information provided by Sri Lankan security circles.It is learnt that a team of Sri Lankan officials was present in Malaysia in an “unofficial”capacity when the arrests were made. It is expected that the Sri Lankan officials would assist the inquiries conducted by their Malaysian counterparts by playing an advisory role. It is very likely that Sri Lanka would request that the arrested suspects be sent to Colombo after interrogation by Malaysian authorities conclude.
According to information available the name of the Sinhala person arrested is Indika Sanjeewa. He is a former solidier of the Sri Lankan army who collaborated with the LTTE when the war as being fought. Indika Sanjeewa had been allegedly supplying vital information about military installations, personnel and movements to the tiger intelligence division headed by “Pottu Ammaan”. He had fled to Malaysia after the LTTE was defeated militarily in May 2009.It is suspected that Indika Sanjeewa continued to maintain links with the overseas network of the LTTE while in Malaysia and received regular financial grants.
Seelan alias Sasi
Among the two Tamils arrested is a senior LTTE cadre named Seelan belonging to the tiger intelligence wing. His nom de guerre in the LTTE is believed to be Sasi.The suspect is an expert in manufacturing explosive devices and is suspected of being involved in the assassination attempt on former Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga in 1999.A bomb exploded at a meeting addressed by her during the 1999 presidential polls resulting in her losing sight in an eye.Seelan is in possession of an accredited refugee card issued by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
The other Tamil of Sri Lankan origin arrested in Malaysia is Sornalingam Puvaneswaran alias Eesan. Puvaneswaran left Sri Lanka after May 2009 and sought asylum in Australia. He was granted permanent residency in Australia. Ouvaneswaran lived in the outer Melbourne suburb of Dandenong and worked as a machine operator. His wife and children were in Malaysia. According to family members puvaneswaran went on a three month visit to see his family in Malaysia and was arrested.
Malaysian authorities however say Puvaneswaran is closely linked to Sundaralingarajah Kushanthan the LTTE “Vaanpuligal”(Tiger Airforce)deputy – chief who was arrested in Malaysia and deported to Sri Lanka in May this year. He is suspected of being an active member of the overseas LTTE metwork.It is suspected by security authorities that Puvaneswaran worked for LTTE intelligence during the war by engaging in reconnaissance work in Colombo during the war.He is suspected to have close connections to the tiger Diaspora network in Malaysia and Australia
Mohammed Abdul Saleem
The fourth person arrested is a Sri Lankan Muslim named Mohammed Abdul Saleem. He is suspected of being associated with another Sri Lankan national Mohammed Zakir Husain who was arrested in India in April as a terrorist suspect. According to reports in the Indian media Zakir Husain belonged to an extremist Muslim group trained by ISI the Pakistani espoionage agency.He is alleged to be involved in the bomb explosions aboard a passenger train at the Chennai railway station.
According to informed sources Abdul Saleem was closely associated with Zakir Husai. He was allegedly in possession of a cache of counterfeit passports of multiple nations, as well as counterfeited rubber stamps of the Malaysian Immigration Department and foreign embassies when arrested.
The latest arrests of four Sri Lankans in Malaysia is perceived as one more instance of the close cooperation between Sri Lankan and Malaysian law enforcement officials to counter terrorism.Several suspected LTTE operatives have been arrested by Malaysian Police in recent times due to the input provided by Sri Lankan officials. A troubling feature of these arrests is the fact that several Sri Lankans detained in Malaysia were accredited refugees with Identity cards given by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees(UNHCR)
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar told Malaysian media that of the 14 Sri Lankans arrested in Malaysia in the past for suspected terrorist activity ,seven had been using UNHCR cards.
According to Malaysian media reports there are 4,280 Sri Lankan refugees and asylum-seekers registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Malaysia.
They comprise about 3% of the 145,025 foreigners who have UNHCR cards as of May.
Most UNHCR cardholders in Malaysia are from Myanmar (134,430) while the rest are from Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries. About 70% are men and 30% women.
DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at email@example.com