Members of a  religious order caught in a Tiger ring

by Shamindra Ferdinando

 Last week's arrest of an LTTE operative at Mabole, Wattala tasked with supplying suicide jackets, explosives and small arms and ammunition to undercover LTTE operatives in the city and its suburbs has revealed a hitherto unknown link between the group and a religious order.

 According to investigators, a few members of the order, some of them priests, had helped the LTTE to smuggle in armaments over a long period of time. The LTTE intelligence has increasingly used them after the army dislodged the Tigers from all their bases in the East by the middle of last year.

 The military said that the LTTE may have shifted some operations to government -held areas in the Vavuniya and Mannar districts to facilitate movement of explosives to Colombo.

The government last week prohibited all private and public vehicles from moving southwards beyond the Irretteperiyakulam road block situated just south of Vavuniya. It also directed that both public and private vehicles from Mannar wouldn't be allowed beyond Medawachchiya until further notice. Night mail train services from Colombo, too would be terminated at Medawachchiya.

 The military said that the government had been forced to take some hard decisions to prevent the LTTE from smuggling explosives to the city.

 The recent arrest of a priest of the religious order under investigation at a road block in the Puttalam district has revealed involvement in terrorist activity, the sources said.

The suspect, a resident of the Mannar district, had led the investigators to his church situated at Thalpadu, Mannar where three suicide jackets, two claymore mines, each packed with five kgs of high explosives , six magnet bombs and three kgs of C4 plastic explosives were found.

 According to investigators, the suspect had handed over 11 suicide jackets to a Batticaloa district based priest of the same order and seven suicide jackets to another priest at Nuwara Eliya. From there, he had travelled to Bandarawela before coming to Mabole where he dropped the LTTE operative shortly before  two members of the

Civil Defence Force arrested him.

The CDF personnel deployed along the Colombo-Negombo road following the assassination of Nation Building Minister D.M.Dassanayake early last month had acted swiftly after a woman brought the manís suspicious behaviour to their notice.

 Authoritative sources said that the recent arrests had helped them to identify a major LTTE network that facilitated the transfer of explsoives needed to carry out attacks in the south.

The priest identified as Nagulan had been arrested as he was on his way to Mannar after handing over suicide jackets to his contacts in Batticaloa (Kallar), Nuwara Eliya and dropping the operative who had been tasked to hand over two suicide jackets to a person identified as Suresh.

 Police and military officials said that they would go all out to crackdown on LTTE intelligence operatives.

An official said that the LTTE, struggling to resist ground assaults on the Jaffna and Vanni fronts would strike indiscriminately. That would be critical to their counter strategy to thwart government efforts to register an impressive battlefield victory ahead of Sinhala New Year.



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