Sri Lanka arrests navy officer over wartime abductions

COLOMBO (AFP) - Sri Lanka's police Wednesday (July 12) arrested a senior navy officer in connection with the disappearance of 11 young men during the final phase of the island's Tamil separatist war.

The move is the latest in a series of arrests and marks an escalation of government investigation into wartime atrocities.

Commodore D. K. P. Dassanayake "was arrested in connection with an investigation into the abduction and illegal detention of the 11 youth," between 2008 and 2009 in Colombo, police said in a statement.

Three other suspects were also in custody, the statement said.

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Dassanayake was the navy's spokesman during the final stages of the military's no-holds-barred offensive against Tamil Tiger rebels who were defeated by May 2009.

The arrest comes amid allegations that senior military personnel and members of the former regime of Mahinda Rajapakse were responsible for high profile killings.

Several military intelligence officers were arrested this year in connection with the assassination of a prominent anti-establishment newspaper editor, and for orchestrating attacks on other journalists and dissidents during Rajapakse's rule that ended in January 2015.

The January 2009 killing of journalist Lasantha Wickrematunga, a fierce critic of then-president Rajapakse, sparked an international outcry and shone a light on human rights violations in Sri Lanka.

Wickrematunga had accused Rajapakse's defence secretary and brother Gotabhaya of taking kickbacks in arms purchases, and was due to testify in court when he was killed.

Gotabhaya Rajapakse has denied he operated death squads.

The former leader and several members of his family are under investigation for large-scale financial fraud and murder during his 10 years as president.