US bust on Tiger missile deal hailed in Sri Lanka

COLOMBO, Aug 22, 2006 (AFP) – Sri Lanka Tuesday welcomed the arrest in the United States of men allegedly trying to buy surface-to-air missiles for Tamil Tiger rebels and said the crackdown was “tangible support” for the war against terrorism. Sri Lanka’s government said US authorities had filed charges against eight people accused of trying to buy weapons for the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) which is fighting government forces on the island.

“This is tangible support in the global war against terror,” government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said. “They not only banned the Tigers in 1997, but have been cracking down on the group.”

Rambukwella, who is also the Policy Planning Minister, said he hoped the European Union member states would also tighten the screws on the Tigers following the EU-wide ban on the LTTE since May.

Tamil Tigers are fighting troops in the northeast in a bid to establish an independent homeland.

More than 60,000 people have been killed in the conflict in the past three decades.

The US on Monday unveiled charges against eight suspects accused of supporting the Tamil Tigers.

Authorities in the US said they had unsealed two complaints against defendants who had been in close contact