Tamil Tigers chief Velupillai Prabhakaran is “alive and safe“, a website sympathetic to the rebels claimed Tuesday.
The Sri Lankan military Monday said that Prabhakaran was shot dead while fleeing the battle zone in the island’s north.
Prabhakaran, the feared leader of Sri Lanka’s ruthless Tamil Tigers, was killed Monday with two top aides, ending one of the world’s longest running insurgencies that bled the island nation for over a quarter century, the military declared.
While rejecting Colombo’s claim of Prabhakaran being killed, and “assuring his safety and well-being”, LTTE’s International Relations Head S. Pathmanathan Tuesday accused Colombo of treachery in the killing of the political wing leaders B. Nadesan and S. Puleedevan.
There was no independent confirmation of the report in the pro-LTTE website TamilNet. Sri Lankan officials have in the past denounced as propaganda similar claims by TamilNet.
Pathmanathan in the statement said: “I wish to inform the global Tamil community distressed witnessing the final events of the war that our beloved leader Velupillai Pirapaharan is alive and safe. He will continue to lead the quest for dignity and freedom for the Tamil people.”
Categorically rejecting Prabhakaran’s death claims, he asked “the Tamil community to be vigilant and to exercise maximum restraint whilst grieving for the loss of Tamil civilian lives in the barbaric conduct of the final chapters of this battle”.
Prabhakaran’s face apparently caught fire and he breathed his last in a small stretch of land near the coast in Mullaitivu district, an area about 400 km from here which he had made his hideout a long time ago, building seemingly impregnable underground bunkers.
The reported death – which came hours after his elder son Charles Anthony, who headed the group’s IT wing and was being groomed to succeed him, was also killed – marks the collapse of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which Prabhakaran set up in 1976 and which became one of the most well-armed and ruthless insurgent groups in the world with its own army, navy and air force.
It also came three days before the 18th anniversary of the assassination of former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, who was blown up by a woman Tamil Tiger suicide bomber at an election rally near Chennai in India May 21, 1991.
Sri Lankan army chief, Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka, told state-owned TV: “We have now completed our task of liberating the north and east from terrorists.” Fonseka was badly wounded when an LTTE suicide bomber sneaked into the fortified army headquarters in Colombo and tried to blow him up.
Also reportedly killed Monday with Prabhakaran was Shanmugalingam Shivashankar alias Pottu Amman, the dreaded chief of the intelligence wing that was responsible for all the high profile assassinations the Tigers carried out in its long and murderous history.
Other key LTTE leaders whose bodies were found Monday were Soosai, the LTTE’s naval wing leader, Balasingham Nadesan, who headed its political wing, S. Puleedevan, head of the Peace Secretariat, Ramesh, a military leader, Ilango, chief of the LTTE police, and Kapil Amman from the LTTE intelligence wing.