Sri Lankan TV broadcasts ‘video of body of Tamil Tiger leader’ as President declares the country liberated from terrorism

Sri Lanka’s government has declared an end to its 26-year civil war and today showed images of what it claims is the body of the Tamil Tiger leader.

TV footage of Tamil leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran. Photo: Reuters/ Daily Mail

Video allegedly showing Vellupillai Prabhakaran’s corpse was broadcast on TV this morning.

But Tamils and their supporters refused to believe the war was over or the LTTE defeated.

I wish to inform the global Tamil community distressed witnessing the final events of the war that our beloved leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran is alive and safe,’ quoted LTTE diplomatic head Selvarajah Pathmanathan as saying.

The defeat of the Tigers was met with a wave of disbelief among the pro-rebel Tamil diaspora, which for years funded the LTTE’s operations and procurement of an arsenal on par with a national army.

Sri Lankan-born Jey Moorthy, 23, said in London: ‘It’s not true, no way. It’s going to continue, we are not going to leave it like this.’

The reported death of Prabhakaran in a gun battle as he tried to flee the war zone sparked celebrations on the streets of the capital Colombo.

Army chief General Sarath Fonseka today announced that his body had been recovered.

A few hours ago, the body of terrorist leader Prabhakaran, who ruined this country, was found in the battleground,’ he told state television.

Police in London say 10 Tamil protesters were arrested today outside Parliament for public order offences.

There has been a Tamil presence at the site for more than a month with protesters demanding a cease-fire on the Indian Ocean island of Sri Lanka.

About 2,000 protesters turned out at Parliament Square yesterday after Sri Lanka declared it had crushed the final resistance of the Tamil Tigers.

In an address to the nation from Parliament today, President Mahinda Rajapaksa said the entire country was now under government control.

We have totally liberated the country from Tamil Tiger terrorism. Now we have established our rule in the entire country,’ he said.

Briefly addressing parliament in the Tamil language, President Rajapaksa said the war was not waged against the Tamil people.

Our intention was to save the Tamil people from the cruel grip of the LTTE. We all must now live as equals in this free country,’ he said.

President Rajapaksa has said in the past that he would negotiate some form of power-sharing with the Tamil community following the war and he alluded today to the need for an agreement.

‘We must find a homegrown solution to this conflict. That solution should be acceptable to all the communities,’ he said. ‘That solution, which would be based on the philosophy of Buddhism, will be an example to the whole world.’

President Rajapaksa has pledged to call elections in the former LTTE areas as swiftly as possible.

Among the celebrations there were protests too, as a crowd of more than 1,000 massed outside the British High Commission in the city, burning an effigy of Foreign Secretary David Miliband and accusing the UK Government of supporting the rebels.

Protesters held posters calling Miliband a ‘white Tiger,’ and several tried to climb the embassy’s high walls.

Mr Miliband has been critical of the Sri Lankan government’s prosecution of the war, and is seen in the country as sympathetic to the vocal pro-LTTE lobby that has protested outside parliament for weeks in Britain.

Sri Lanka has been furious that a number of its embassies in foreign capitals have been vandalised by Tamil Tiger backers.

Mr Miliband said yesterday there have been ‘very grave allegations’ of war crimes on both sides and ‘they should be investigated’.

The European Union has called for an independent investigation into the killing of civilians, amid reports that 7,000 may have died in the final months of the military offensive as Sri Lanka’s army pushed the rebels into a tiny enclave in the North-East of the island.

More than 70,000 civilians are said to have fled the war zone over the weekend, joining some 200,000 ethnic Tamils living in emergency government-run camps.

The United Nations said yesterday it believed 265,000 people have been displaced by the conflict.

Aid workers prevented from reaching the fleeing masses have expressed concern at their treatment.

Many are being held behind barbed wire in what some see as prison camps, as the government seeks to ‘sift out’ rebel supporters.

Thousands of Tamils living in Britain and other countries are desperately seeking news of relatives believed to have been trapped in the fighting.

At a meeting of EU foreign ministers, Mr Miliband said : ‘I think it’s vital that he (Mr Rajapaksa) looks to the future. It’s the need for a political process that does indeed give equal rights to all of Sri Lanka’s citizens that is at the heart of the future of that country and its engagement more widely.

‘We hold no brief for the Tamil Tigers. Our only concern has been for civilians. The government of Sri Lanka has made serious allegations against the Tamil Tigers, and serious allegations made by both sides should be investigated.’

State television broke into its regular programming yesterday to announce the death of 54-year-old Prabhakaran. It was feared he might have already escaped.

The government information department also sent a text message to mobile phones across the country announcing Prabhakaran was killed along with his top deputies.

Prabhakaran’s death or capture was crucial in bringing closure to the war-wracked island nation in the Indian Ocean.

If he had escaped, he could have used his large international smuggling network and the support of Tamil expatriates to spark a new round of guerilla warfare. However, his death in battle could still turn him into a martyr for other Tamil separatists.

Senior military officials said Prabhakaran was surrounded early yesterday with the last of his fighters in a 300m sq patch of jungle, north of the town of Mullaittivu.

It was believed he had given instructions for his bodyguards to kill him, or he would break the cyanide capsule all Tigers carry around their necks and commit suicide, rather than be captured.

But he and his deputies are said to have made a final desperate bid for freedom.

Hidden in the back of an armour-plated ambulance, and accompanied by a bus filled with armed rebels, they drove at Sri Lankan special forces, sparking a two-hour firefight.

Soldiers eventually fired a rocket at the van, ending the battle, the officials said.

Troops then pulled a body from the van and identified it as that of the rebel leader, they said, although no formal identification has yet been made.

The attack also killed Soosai, the head of the rebels’ naval wing, and Pottu Amman, the group’s feared intelligence commander, it is claimed.

In Colombo, which had suffered countless rebel bombings, people set off fireworks, danced and sang in the streets.

‘Myself and most of my friends gathered here have narrowly escaped bombs set off by the Tigers. Some of our friends were not lucky,’ said Lal Hettige, 47, a businessman celebrating in Colombo’s outdoor market.

‘We are happy today to see the end of that ruthless terrorist organization and its heartless leader. We can live in peace after this’

The chubby, mustachioed Prabhakaran turned what was little more than a street gang in the late 1970s into one of the world’s most feared insurgencies.

He demanded unwavering loyalty and gave his followers vials of cyanide to wear around their necks and bite into in case of capture.

At the height of his power, he controlled a shadow state in northern Sri Lankan and commanded a force that including an infantry, backed by artillery, a significant naval wing and a nascent air force.

He also controlled a suicide squad known as the Black Tigers that was blamed for scores of deadly attacks. The rebels were branded a terror group and condemned for forcibly conscripting child soldiers.

Earlier, the military announced it had killed several top rebel leaders, including Prabhakaran’s son Charles Anthony, also a rebel leader.

The military said special forces also found the bodies of the rebels’ political wing leader, Balasingham Nadesan, the head of the rebels’ peace secretariat, Seevaratnam Puleedevan, and one of the top military leaders, known as Ramesh.

The rebels have been fighting since 1983 for a separate state for Sri Lanka’s ethnic Tamil minority after years of marginalization at the hands of the Sinhalese majority. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the fighting.

Government forces ousted the rebels from their shadow state in the north in recent months and brought the group to its knees.

Thousands of civilians were reportedly killed in the recent fighting.

Senior diplomats had appealed for a humanitarian cease-fire in recent weeks to safeguard the tens of thousands of civilians trapped in the war zone, but the government refused, and denied persistent reports it was shelling the densely populated war zone.

Original Post | Daily Mail | May 20 2009


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