SL questions new rebel leader

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan officials on Friday questioned the captured leader of the Tamil Tiger rebels, who was arrested in Southeast Asia earlier this week and flown to this island nation.

Sri Lanka's military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said Selvarasa Pathmanathan had been brought to Sri Lanka and was being interrogated. He refused to say where Pathmanathan — who was sought by Interpol for smuggling arms for the Tigers and who was reportedly based in Southeast Asia — had been arrested. He also refused to say whether the military or police had custody of him.

Pathmanathan took over as the rebel chief after the group's defeat in May and the death of its revered leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran.

The Tigers said in a Friday statement he was arrested near a hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and handed over to the Sri Lankan military.

But Sri Lanka's Island newspaper, quoting anonymous sources, said he was captured in Thailand.

Thai officials denied those reports. Malaysian officials declined to comment.

Sri Lankan officials told The Associated Press in an earlier interview that Pathmanathan, also known as KP, traveled with dozens of passports — including Indian, Egyptian, Malaysian — and bought weapons from countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Bulgaria and South Africa.

Soon after the Tigers' defeat, Pathmanathan said the group would use nonviolent means to seek an independent state for the island's ethnic Tamil minority.

Tamil rebels had fought a 25-year battle to carve out an independent state for Tamils after decades of marginalization by majority ethnic Sinhalese-controlled governments.

Between 80,000-100,000 people were killed in the violence.