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Monday, August 21, 2006

Canadians tried to buy missiles for Tamil Tigers: U.S.

Three Canadians are among a group of eight men accused by U.S. officials of attempting to buy surface-to-air missiles from an undercover agent for use in a campaign against Sri Lankan government forces.

The U.S. Department of Justice said two complaints were unsealed in a Brooklyn, N.Y., federal court Monday, charging the men with multiple crimes, including conspiracy to provide material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (Tamil Tigers).

The criminal complaints also allege some of the men tried to obtain classified information from federal departments and offered bribes of at least $1 million US to try to get the group removed from the U.S. list of terrorist organizations.

Six of the men appeared at a federal court hearing. The material support charge carries a maximum of 15 years in prison, while the bribery charge maximum is five years.

The three Canadians charged were identified as Sathajhan Sarachandran, Sahilal Sabaratnam and Thiruthanikan Thanigasalam.

The three Canadians and another man were arrested in Long Island on Saturday after allegedly attempting to purchase from an agent SA-18 surface-to-air missiles, missile launchers, AK-47s and other weapons to be used by the Tigers in their conflict against the Sri Lankan military, the Justice Department said.

"The multi-faceted scheme by members and supporters of the Sri Lankan organization known as the Tamil Tigers demonstrates the need for continued vigilance in the global war against terrorists," Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said in a statement.

'Deadly campaign of violence'

"These defendants allegedly sought to obtain, through a variety of means, weapons and materials to carry out a deadly campaign of violence. We will use every tool in our power to disrupt the activities of those who seek to harm others, both here and abroad.

Authorities said the men were acting upon the directions of senior leadership of the Tigers in Sri Lanka.

In the last month, hundreds have been killed in violent clashes between the Tigers and government security forces, an escalated pace as a 2002 cease fire has collapsed in recent months.

The rebel group has fought for more than two decades to carve out a separate homeland for Sri Lanka's 3.2 million minority Tamils in the north and east.

The U.S. State Department added the Tamil Tigers to its list of foreign terrorist organizations in 1997, barring the group from raising money, obtaining weapons or lobbying for support in the country.

It was indicated in the news release that the members of the RCMP's national security program and British law enforcement officials had co-operated in the investigation, in addition to several FBI field offices.

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