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Prabakaran son death: Lanka defiant, India cautious

Island nation under pressure after photos suggest young son of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam leader Velupillai Prabakaran was executed after being captured. His death was deliberate and calculated, alleges activist.

world Updated: Feb 20, 2013 12:21 IST

India has reacted with caution after photographs emerged apparently showing that the son of the leader of the Tamil rebels was murdered, and not killed in the cross fire during the end of Sri Lanka's three-decade civil war.

"As far as Sri Lanka is concerned, we are constantly in engagement with Sri Lanka. We are important neighbours, we are important partners. We have good friendship. The concerns that people have felt was reflected in our previous engagements," said External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on Tuesday.

Khurshid said he will not comment on the photographs. "Can't say that what is shown is authentic. We did see pictures shown sometime ago and therefore to comment on hearsay would not be possible," he said.

The photographs of the son of the leader of the Tamil rebels suggest he was murdered, and not killed, a British-based documentary maker has said.

If confirmed, the accusation would leave the Sri Lankan government with more questions to answer about allegations of systematic executions at the end of the war, especially given Balachandran Prabakaran was just 12.

Tens of thousands of civilians were killed in 2009 in the final months the war, a UN panel said, as government troops advanced on the ever-shrinking northern tip of the island controlled by Tamil rebels fighting for an independent homeland.

LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran's 12-year-old son Balachandran Prabakaran.

The UN panel said it had "credible allegations" that Sri Lankan troops and the Tamil rebels both carried out atrocities and war crimes, and singled out the government for most of the responsibility for the deaths.

Sri Lanka has rejected all rights abuse allegations.

One of the photographs obtained from anonymous sources by Britain's Channel 4 showed Balachandran, the 12-year son of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) leader Velupillai Prabakaran, being given a snack and some water after being captured. Another shows him dead.

Digital image analysis indicates the photographs were taken by the same camera, suggesting he was killed deliberately, said Callum Macrae, director of the Channel 4 documentary "No fire zone: The killing fields of Sri Lanka".

"They prove that Balachandran was not killed in crossfire, or in a battle. His death was deliberate and calculated," Macrae wrote in The Hindu on Tuesday.

The government has said Balachandran and many rebel leaders were killed in crossfire.

The Sri Lankan army said allegations of these nature tended to surface around the time of UNHRC meetings and die down afterwards.

"No substantive evidence has been presented for us to launch an investigation," army spokesman Ruwan Wanigasooriya said in an emailed statement.

"Unfortunately, it appears that the parties who float such baseless allegations never want these to be investigated or solved. They want to keep them as mysteries in order to tarnish the country's good image as and when it suits their agendas."

(With inputs from PTI and Reuters)