The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, vanquished by the Sri Lankan Army in May after a three decade bloody civil war, procured most of their arms from the former Soviet Republic of Ukraine as well as China, a former rebel commander has said.
"The LTTE purchased most of its weapons from Ukraine," Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan, best known as Colonel Karuna Amman said.
"There were many other supply sources in Asia and Africa, but the main source was Ukraine," the stocky Karuna, a former bodyguard to slain Velupillai Prabhakaran told Japan's Kyodo News in an interview in his tightly guarded office here.
Asked if North Korea was a supplier, Karuna, the former LTTE military commander, now minister for National Integration and Reconciliation in President Mahinda Rajapaksa's government, said there was a lot of talk about procuring arms from the country, but those efforts never succeeded.
But other well-informed military sources in Colombo quoted by Kyodo said on condition of anonymity that the LTTE had obtained Chinese arms with North Korean end-user certificates.
"An investigation team from Japan was here in this connection some months ago and met with very senior officials," one of the sources said, adding that, "Tokyo knows the facts." Karuna, a vice president of Rajapaksa's Sri Lanka Freedom Party, said most of the arms used by the LTTE were of Russian and Chinese manufacture.
Kumaran Pathmanathan, best known as KP, who was arrested in Malaysia and is now in the custody of the Sri Lankan government, was the chief arms procurer.
"The LTTE had bases in Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and Laos, and KP operated from these places," Karuna said.
"In those days it was very difficult for him to get into Europe." Karuna also said that in addition to arms, including heavy artillery, mortars and surface-to-air missiles, the LTTE also obtained explosives, including C-4, from sources that included Ukraine.
He broke with the LTTE, along with many of his troops, in March 2004.
"I was the military commander," he said."Prabhakaran never came to the battlefield. I was always on the battlefield. That was my duty."