London, Nov. 3 (Agencies): A breakaway leader of the LTTE rebels has been arrested in Britain, the government said today.
The home office said Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan, also known as Col. Karuna, was detained in a joint operation by police and immigration officials.
A spokesman said he was being held in immigration detention, but refused to say where he was detained or whether Sri Lanka would begin extradition proceedings.
Karuna was a top leader of the LTTE, that has been fighting for more than two decades for a homeland for the minority Tamil community in the north and east of the Indian Ocean island.
More than 70,000 people have been killed in the fighting.
Karuna defected in 2004 with thousands of his men and formed his own militia. The next year, his group joined the Sri Lankan government in the fight against their old comrades.
The group now controls large sections in the east of the country and has been accused of abductions, killings and other human rights abuses.
Foreign office minister Kim Howells said in May that Britain believed Karuna to be responsible for “extra-judicial killings, abductions, intimidation of displaced persons and child recruitment”.
P. Nadesan, LTTE’s police chief, has been appointed the new head of the outfit’s political wing.
The elusive tiger supremo V. Prabhakaran appointed Nadesan, who had been a delegate to earlier peace talks between the rebels and the government, rebel spokesman Irasiah Ilanthiryan said.
Nadesan succeeds the slain rebel leader S.P. Thamilselvan who was honoured by Prabhakaran hours after he was killed in a raid by the Sri Lankan air force yesterday.
The LTTE spokesman described the attack by the air force as “a cowardly assassination”.
The outfit has also declared a three-day mourning.
The Sri Lankan defence ministry said that ongoing fighting with the rebels claimed the lives of two rebels yesterday while secu- rity forces captured a line of bunkers from the LTTE near an irrigation reservoir. However, the guerrillas have denied losing their territory.