Colombo: Senior Tiger cadres in military custody feared for their lives after the new head of the defeated guerrilla group was arrested in Malaysia, a pro-rebel website said on Saturday.
The Tamilnet.com website said Wednesday`s dramatic capture of Selvarasa Pathmanathan, better known as KP, in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur raised "serious concerns about the world outlook to political justice”.
Pathmanathan, who took over as head of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) after its military leadership was killed in the final stages of fighting in mid May, had chosen to reorganise the rebel group as a non-violent movement.
"Mr Pathmanathan, who denounced violence, was engaged in reorganising the LTTE" and was involved in "the formation of a trans-national body for the Eelam Tamils," the website said.
Tamilnet said Pathmanathan`s "mysterious kidnapping" had raised fears for the safety of hundreds of Tiger leaders in Sri Lankan military custody.
"Currently there are fears about the lives of hundreds of senior LTTE leaders," the Tamilnet said. "War criminals and terrorists hide behind the banner of state and the world doesn’t care for a whole nation incarcerated."
Government forces have identified nearly 10,000 Tamil rebels among some 300,000 civilians who escaped the final stages of fighting between troops and Tamil Tigers in the island`s north.
Sri Lanka has promised to establish an ambitious rehabilitation programme for rebels in custody and has already set up two centres to provide them with vocational training.
Military sources said that the capture of Pathmanathan was a serious blow to attempts by Tamils abroad to resurrect the guerrilla outfit, which is banned in the US, India and across the European Union.
A key figure in the overseas operations of the LTTE, Pathmanathan took up the leadership of the group`s remnants after the death in May of long-time Tiger chief Velupillai Prabhakaran.
Defence Ministry spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella told reporters on Friday that Pathmanathan was being interrogated at an undisclosed location in Sri Lanka.
Pathmanathan is also wanted by Interpol on gun-running charges and by the Indian government in connection with the assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi by a Tamil suicide bomber in 1991.