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Sri Lanka

Government claims LTTE leader dead

Article published on the 2009-05-18 Latest update 2009-05-18 14:38 TU

Soldiers stand over LTTE bodies. Image shown on Derana TV, 18 May 2009REUTERS/Derana TV

Soldiers stand over LTTE bodies. Image shown on Derana TV, 18 May 2009

India's Central Bureau of Investigation says it wants scientific proof of Sri Lankan defence claims that its troops killed the 54-year-old LTTE founder and leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, along with two other high-ranking Tamil Tigers on Monday. Prabhakaran and Pottu Amman were wanted in India in connection with the assassination of late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

After declaring official victory in the 30-year war with the LTTE, the Sri Lankan government, claims Prabhakaran is dead.

"All military operations have come to a stop," army chief Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka said in a statement on Monday, after an intense two-year military offensive.

It is estimated that more than 70,000 have died in the conflict, in pitched battles, suicide attacks, bomb strikes and assassinations.

The LTTE emerged in the 1970s, as the main armed group fighting the government for minority Tamil equality with the majority Sinhalese. It demanded an independent Tamil homeland in the north and north-east of the island.

The Defence Ministry says troops also killed Prabhakaran's deputies, Sea Tiger leader Soosai and LTTE intelligence chief Pottu Amman.

Prabhakaran and Amman are wanted in India for masterminding the assassination of then Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, in 1991, in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

A senior official at the Indian Central Bureau of Investigation says that the case can be closed if it receives authentication of their deaths.

Also killed were Prabhakaran's 24-year-old son, Charles Anthony, the group's political wing leader B Nadesan, and the head of the LTTE's Peace Secretariat, S Pulideevan.

Charles Antony, the leader's son, pictured dead on 18 May 2009(Photo: Reuters/Derana TV)

Charles Antony, the leader's son, pictured dead on 18 May 2009
(Photo: Reuters/Derana TV)

The pro-rebel Tamilnet website says the LTTE leadership had appealed to the Red Cross to be evacuated and accuses the military of ending its offensive with "a massacre".

The guerrillas acknowledged on Sunday that their decades-old battle for an independent ethnic homeland had reached its "bitter end".

With an end that is bitter for the LTTE, and joyous for the Sinhalese population of Sri Lanka, the Asian Human Rights Commission is calling for an end to Sri Lanka's anti-terrorism laws. "There is no longer justification for the the continuation of the emergency and anti-terrorism laws.[...] The essence of these laws is to suspend the normal laws of the country [that] cripples the rule of law, due process and democracy."

The Sri Lankan government's victory has cost of thousands of civilian lives in indiscriminate shelling, according to the United Nations. The UN's rights body now wants a war crimes investigation. The International Committee of the Red Cross, the only neutral organisation that has been allowed to work in the war zone, has described "an unimaginable humanitarian catastrophe".

"There was no bloodbath as some people feared,Sri Lanka's Human," Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said. "Everybody has come out safely and they are being looked after by the government."

Meanwhile, outside the UN headquarters in Geneva, Tamils mounted a vigil urging international action to help their minority. About 100 protesters began their sit-in on Sunday night.