KUALA LUMPUR- Police have flushed out four senior leaders of the outlawed Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in a crackdown in the wake of a similar bust in India.
And the hunt is on for more of them as police believe the Tamil Tigers are trying to revive their movement using Malaysia as a transit point, hideout and a new base of operation.
The detention of the four in Serdang, Sentul, Sungai Besi and central Kuala Lumpur on Thursday brings the total number of Sri Lankan Tamils arrested here in the last two months to seven. Three were arrested on May 15.
The arrests come on the heels of another crackdown on Islamic militants linked to Isil and the Abu Sayyaf.
The Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division is withholding the names of the four LTTE leaders but confirmed that one is a bomb expert while another was involved in the attempted assassination of former Sri Lankan president Chandrika Kumaratunga on Dec 18, 1999.
The suspects, aged 32, 37, 43 and 45, are believed to be responsible for past attacks in Sri Lanka.
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said the four were also suspected of attempting to revive the LTTE movement.
"The bomb expert also holds an UNHCR refugee card. Another suspect was an accomplice of a Sri Lankan arrested earlier in May. They were involved in a thwarted attack in Chennai and Bangalore in India recently. Yet another suspect was in charge of collecting and disseminating information along the LTTE network," he said in a statement yesterday.
Sources revealed that the LTTE quartet have been in the country since 2009 and were highly respected in the LTTE network.
"The four have been LTTE members since early 1990s. One of them even joined when he was a teenager.
"They came to Malaysia following the Sri Lankan military crackdown on the LTTE and hoped to plan attacks from Malaysia while trying to revive the movement," the source said.
Khalid confirmed that among the items seized were a huge number of forged Malaysian passports along with forged stamps of the Immigration Department and those of foreign embassies.
It is learnt that one of the suspects detained was also involved in human trafficking, given the number of forged passports found in one of their hideouts.
"French work permits as well as permits from other countries were seized from one of their hideouts.
"Police believe the suspect was working with local forgery syndicates," the source said.
According to the IGP, of the 14 LTTE members arrested this year, seven were UNHCR cardholders.
"We are viewing the matter seriously as certain parties attempt to make Malaysia a place of transit, hideout and even a new base of operation.
"It is even more problematic that some of them are exploiting the UNHCR refugee status to avoid detention," he said, adding that the suspects were detained under the Immigration Act 1959/63.
"This country is not a safe haven for terrorists," the source said.
It is learnt that the LTTE members had assimilated themselves in Malaysia with some working as professionals, including one as an IT consultant, while others might be running their own businesses.