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Selvarasa Pathmanathan named new leader by Tamil Tigers survivors

[Times Online UK, Thursday, 23 July 2009 06:47 No Comment]

The remnants of the Tamil Tigers have named a new leader and vowed to continue their separatist struggle, two months after the organisation was crushed by the Sri Lankan Army and its totemic founder, Velupillai Prabhakaran, was killed.

A group called the Tigers’ Executive Committee said that Selvarasa Pathmanathan, 54, a fisherman’s son who became a veteran guerrilla fighter, had been appointed the rebels’ new head.

Mr Pathmanathan was formerly the Tigers’ chief of international relations. He is wanted for allegedly running vast international arms-smuggling and money-laundering rackets.

The Tigers’ statement said that Mr Pathmanathan, who is thought to be in hiding in South-East Asia, would “lead us into the next steps of our freedom struggle”. It added that the rebels, who are formally known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), had founded a new headquarters in an undisclosed location.

In an interview with Channel 4 News last night, Mr Pathmanathan claimed that he had between 1,500 and 2,000 fighters in Sri Lanka’s jungle. “Still we have a fighting force. We can continue the fighting years and years,” he said.

Suren Surendiran, of the British Tamils’ Forum, said: “This is an indication that the face of the struggle has changed — away from violence and the former dictatorship of the LTTE — but that Tamils remain united in their aspirations to be free.”

It is unclear how much support Mr Pathmanathan, who has also been known as Kumaran Pathmanathan or KP, has from the few other survivors of the Tiger hierarchy.

He was the first leading Tiger figure to acknowledge the death of Prabhakaran in May, an event that marked the climax of a bloody two-year offensive by the army in the north of the country that ended Asia’s longest-running civil war. At least 70,000 people were killed in 26 years.

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