Militants from Sri Lanka's civil war are posing as asylum seekers on boats headed for Australia - and could be financed by former Tamil Tiger combatants already in Australia, The Australian reported today.
Six former combatants were arrested leaving Sri Lanka this year, with another six people smugglers also collared.
Five of the six were arrested since June in a crackdown by Sri Lankan authorities. The arrests come after 14 asylum pirates stole a fishing boat, cutting one crewman's throat before throwing at least two into the sea. They were flown directly to Sri Lanka on Saturday after being intercepted by Australian authorities off the Cocos Islands.
Superintendent Prashantha Jayakody yesterday confirmed three crew members were still missing, presumed dead.
The pirates were being questioned in police custody, he added, and would face a long list of charges when they appeared in court.
Sri Lankan High Commissioner Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe said the country would co-operate with Australia with information about any former combatants who had not been rehabilitated since the war ended in 2009.
Militants were behind terrorist attacks and assassinations and also accused of ethnic cleansing.
"Anybody who comes here, if they have been involved in atrocities in Sri Lankan they could be wanted people. With the standing of our friendship we could share information on such people with Australia," the High Commissioner said.
His words came as Liberal MP Don Randall was shown a gallery of the faces of the main people smuggling operators in Sri Lanka.
Mr Randall was told by Sri Lankan authorities during a recent visit to the country that former combatants already in Australia are believed to be funding the militants' passage.
He said he was aware of Sri Lankans at detention centres in Christmas Island being housed near former combatants. "I am told these guys are turning up with old shrapnel wounds, they are obviously militants," he added.
A spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said the government was aware of the issue. "The government takes very seriously its role in protecting the Australian community - we can not and will not compromise on matters of national security," he said.