- The Washington Times - Friday, April 18, 2008

Canadian federal police say they have uncovered two North American outposts of a Sri Lankan terrorist organization described by the FBI as one of the “most dangerous and deadly” extremist groups in the world.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) seized two office buildings and bank accounts in Toronto and Montreal used to raise funds for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), according to documents unsealed this week in federal court in Canada.

The LTTE, designated as a terrorist organization by the RCMP and the U.S. State Department, has sought for more than three decades to violently break away from Sri Lanka and create an independent state for the ethnically divided island’s Tamil minority.

Also known as the Tamil Tigers, the group has killed 4,000 people through suicide bombings and political assassinations over the past two years, according to the FBI.

Canadian and U.S. authorities said the LTTE has established the outposts to help fund and equip its struggle against the Sri Lankan government.

The Washington Times last week quoted the FBI saying the organization also had set up operations in Maryland, New York and New Jersey.

Although the buildings and bank accounts in Montreal and Toronto were seized last week, the information was not made public until a court ordered it to be released. The RCMP said the properties and accounts were used by the World Tamil Movement, which it described as a cover organization for the LTTE.

“We believe that the building [in Montreal] was used to finance terrorist activities in Sri Lanka — that’s why it was seized,” said Cpl. Elaine Lavergne of the RCMP office in Montreal. No charges have been filed.

The World Tamil Movement in Montreal denies sending money or equipment to the LTTE. Instead, the group says it is merely a community social organization that sympathizes with the LTTE’s goal but not its violence, according to the group’s attorney, Steven Slimovitch.

“It essentially is the community organization in Montreal. It has sports, social activities, educational activities and so on,” he said.

Mr. Slimovitch said the police confiscated some of the WTM’s property in 2006. He accused the RCMP of holding the group’s property for too long without filing charges, adding that the RCMP has applied for repeated extensions to hold the property without charges.

“The major problem is the World Tamil Movement has never had an opportunity and probably will never have an opportunity to have their day in court,” Mr. Slimovitch said.

Canada has long been a rumored hot spot for the LTTE, which relies on the country’s large expatriate population to fund its efforts in Sri Lanka. The United States’ northern neighbor recently started cracking down on suspected LTTE operatives.

Canada added the group to its list of designated terrorist organizations in April 2006. The World Tamil Movement in Montreal has been under investigation by the RCMP since about that time, Mr. Slimovitch said.

In March, Canada also issued the first charges under the country’s new laws against raising money for terrorists. Prapaharan Thambithurai of Ontario, accused of raising money for the World Tamil Movement, was arrested and later released on bail. His trial is pending.

Law-enforcement and intelligence authorities in Canada and the U.S. said the LTTE’s political wing has established “branches” in at least 12 countries, including the United States, as part of a global expansion in which the organization seeks to purchase millions of dollars worth of anti-aircraft weapons, automatic rifles, grenade launchers, ammunition, explosives and other military equipment.

In August 2006, eight people were charged in New York with conspiracy to provide resources and material support — including Russian-made SA-18 surface-to-air missiles, missile launchers and AK-47 assault rifles — to terrorist associates in Sri Lanka.

In January, a Sri Lankan national arrested during a Baltimore sting operation was sentenced to 57 months in prison for conspiracy to provide support to the LTTE and the attempted exportation of $900,000 worth of guns, ammunition, missiles and other military equipment to Sri Lanka.

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