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'Rajiv killing a mistake, Lankan president armed LTTE'

'Rajiv killing a mistake, Lankan president armed LTTE'

2010 Dec 14

Assassinating former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was a mistake and it turned India against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a former Tamil Tiger leader turned government minister has said. Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan, popularly known Colonel Karuna, told the Lessons Learnt and
Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) – a government-appointed panel looking into the civil war -- that initially the rebel outfit had influence in India and even claimed to have been trained there.

But the situation changed drastically. According to newspaper reports, Karuna said: ``It was a big mistake on the part of the LTTE to have assassinated Rajiv Gandhi.’’

Karuna, who is now the deputy minister for resettlement, said the situation changed when in 1991 Rajiv Gandhi was killed, adding that India then turned against the Tigers and banned it.

Interestingly, Karuna also claimed former Lankan President Premadasa gave the LTTE money and firearms when the terrorist group was weak, the Daily Mirror reported.

Though the former rebel leader did not specify dates, it is believed that the Sri Lanka government had armed the LTTE during the last phase of the controversial tenure of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in the north and the east here.

Karuna was a powerful LTTE leader in eastern Sri Lanka. But he defected in 2004 weaning away a large number of cadres when he left the rebel outfit. It is widely believed that one of the vital reasons for the LTTE’s collapse was Karuna’s defection to the government.

Responding to a question from the LLRC panel, Karuna said he was in Jaffna when LTTE massacred 600 Sinhala policemen in the East in 1989. Karuna has been accused of masterminding the massacre after 600 Sinhala policemen surrendered in eastern Lanka.

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