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LTTE supremo Prabakaran believed dead

B. Muralidhar Reddy

End of Eelam War IV as Tigers are eliminated as a military force

— PHOTOS: Sri Lankan government, AFP/LTTE and AFP/SRI LANKAN ARMY

DENOUEMENT IN SRI LANKA: This photograph released by the Sri Lankan military on Monday shows what it says is the battle scene near where Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam leader Velupillai Prabakaran was believed killed.

From inside the war zone: The curtains came down on the 33-month-old-long Eelam War IV as the Sri Lanka military in the early hours of Monday succeeded in decimating the military capabilities of the LTTE, resulting in the death of at least 18 top brass of the outfit presumably including its chief Velupillai Prabakaran, in an intense battle in the last phase that lasted nearly 22 hours.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa called up External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee to confirm that the armed resistance by the LTTE had ended and its leader Prabakaran was dead.

The military commanders on the ground are unable to officially confirm the death of Prabakaran as they have not been able to trace him or his body in the continuing combing operations. Sri Lankan military commanders believe that a burnt body beyond recognition recovered from the battle zone could be that of Prabakaran.

This correspondent, the only foreign print journalist present inside the war zone, accompanied the top military commanders as the bodies of the top brass of the LTTE were brought in tractors by the soldiers for identification.

A photograph taken on November 27, 2003 shows Prabakaran at the annual Heroes’ Week address in the northern town of Kilinochchi. (Below) A handout photo, released by the Army, shows what they claim is the body of Charles Anthony, son of Prabakaran.

At the time of filing of this report, the bodies of LTTE leaders positively identified by the military included that of Charles Anthony, elder son of Prabakaran, the Tiger intelligence wing chief, Pottu Amman, the political wing head, B. Nadesan, in-charge of the Tiger’s peace secretariat and S. Pulithevan.

In the national capital in the evening, the three chiefs of the Sri Lanka Army, Navy and the Air Force called on Mr. Rajapaksa and informed him that the war against the LTTE has concluded and the forces have been successful in wiping out its entire leadership and either destroyed or captured its arms and ammunition.

Along with the bodies of the LTTE leaders lined up on the ground inside the war zone for identification, the captured weaponry, ammunition, communication equipment and several bundles of Sri Lankan currency were on display. Most of the leaders appear to have died either of gun wounds or in suicide blasts by the Tiger cadres. A few appear to have swallowed the cyanide capsule. It was mandatory for the LTTE leaders and cadres to wear the cyanide capsule and bite it in the event of being captured by the military.

The intensity of the battle in the final hours to end Eelam War IV could be gauged from the fact that the military has so far collected at least 250 bodies of the Tiger cadres. The commanders on the spot believe that several more bodies could be lying in bunkers inside the war zone and the search operations are expected to continue for several more hours.

The first signs that the military had completely overwhelmed the last remaining cadres and leaders of the LTTE were evident to this reporter around 10 a.m. at the headquarters of the 58 Division. Soldiers passed around pieces of cake and the personnel inside the operations room appear to be totally relaxed.

Around the same time, confirmation of the news that it was all over for the LTTE came in the form of a ‘feature’ on the pro-LTTE web site, TamilNet. Titled ‘Long live human dignity, shame on the international community’ it read, “While the so-called international community is exposed by its shameful conning, thousands of Tamil civilians and combatants are laying down their lives to uphold Tamil dignity, and human dignity.”

Later in the day, TamilNet said that in the early hours of Monday, around 3:00 a.m. Wanni local time, Nadesan and Pulithevan telephoned their contacts in Europe and informed them to tell the ICRC Head Office that only around 1,000 wounded cadres, civil officials of the LTTE and civilians remained in the so-called safety zone and there was no firing from the LTTE side.

“They urged the ICRC to evacuate the wounded. A few hours later, Colombo’s Defence Ministry website claimed finding the dead bodies of Nadesan, Pulithevan, Ilango (Tamileelam police chief), and LTTE Leader V. Pirapaharan’s son Charles Antony. The LTTE is yet to confirm, but initial reports indicate a determined massacre by the Sri Lanka Army (SLA),” the web site said.

In Colombo, the Special Envoy of U.N. Secretary General Vijay Nambiar called on the Sri Lankan President and Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagamma and discussed the ground situation and the welfare of nearly 2.75 lakh displaced civilians.

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