KUALA LUMPUR - Self-appointed chief of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam Selvarasa Pathmanathan has been arrested in a South-East Asian country on Wednesday and flown back to the island nation for questioning, said Sri Lankan authorities.
However, there were conflicting reports as to which country he was arrested in, with Thailand and Malaysia saying they had no knowledge of the capture.
The rebels said in a statement that Pathmanathan, also known as KP, was arrested near a hotel here.
The pro-rebel website said Pathmanathan had gone to the hotel to meet relatives of the group's slain political leader Balasingham Nadesan.
He left the room to answer a phone call, but did not return, it said.
When asked to comment, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said he could not confirm that Pathmanathan was arrested here.
"I cannot confirm this. I don't have the facts with me. I will find out about the matter first," he told reporters after launching the Majlis Jalinan Rakyat at the people's housing project at Batu Muda, Jalan Ipoh, here yesterday.
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan said he knew nothing about the arrest and declined to comment further.
The Associated Press reported that Pathmanathan, 54, was once the top arms negotiator and financial controller of the Tigers, headed by Velupillai Prabakaran until he was killed on May 18.
Since then, Pathmanathan has been on the run and was believed to be operating from a South-East Asian country, shuttling to several European countries under different identities while trying to revive the armed movement.
In another development, Sri Lanka's Island newspaper quoted anonymous sources as saying that Pathmanathan had been captured in Thailand.
Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn denied he had been arrested there but said there were "reports that he has been travelling in and out of Thailand."
A Thai military intelligence official said Pathamanathan had been hiding in northern Thailand under a false identity in recent months.