Italian police have arrested some 30 suspected members of Sri Lanka's
Tamil Tiger rebel group in pre-dawn raids across the country, as part
of a 2-year counter-terrorism investigation. Police said the Sri Lankan
suspects extorted money from fellow nationals to finance the rebel
group's activities at home. For VOA, Sabina Castelfranco reports from
Italian police say the arrests in several cities in
Italy came at the end of a two-year counter-terrorism investigation. At
least 30 suspected members of Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebel group were
arrested in an operation coordinated by Naples police. Most of those
arrested had permits to live in Italy and had jobs as domestic helpers.
Police in Naples said the operation dubbed "Home Tigers"
effectively dismantles the Tamil Tiger network in Italy. The network's
boss was also arrested in Zurich. The Sri Lankans were allegedly
involved in extorting money from fellow nationals in various Italian
cities including Rome, Genoa, Bologna, Naples and Palermo.
said some $4.5 million were being funneled to Sri
Lanka every year to help the rebel group finance illegal activities
including terror attacks against the government, institutions and other
civilian targets at home.
Antonio Sbordone, head of the Naples counter-terrorism investigative police unit, was in charge of the operation.
said the organization was very well structured and hierarchical with a
boss in Europe, others in Italy and deputy bosses in various areas and
regions of Italy.
Investigators also said the organization spread hatred of the Sri Lankan majority among the ethnic minority Tamils.
also said that those arrested were involved in extortion of fellow
nationals who had been living in Italy for years and were forced to pay
monthly sums of money to the organization. They were told that if they
did not pay up there would be serious repercussions not only to them
but their family members back home.
Investigators said wiretaps
were widely used as part of the investigation that led to the early
morning arrests. Tamil Tiger rebels have fought since 1983 to create an
independent homeland for Sri Lanka's ethnic minority Tamils.