Vellupillai Prabhakaran, the 54-year-old founder-chief of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and conspirator of former PM Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, was killed in battle with the Sri Lankan army on Monday.
The death of Prabhakran, who had been fighting the Lankan military since 1983 for a separate nation state for Tamils in northern and eastern Sri Lanka, ended one of the bloodiest ethnic conflicts in the region.
Colombo burst out into spontaneous celebrations after news of Prabhakaran’s death spread. Crackers were burst and the Lankan flag was unfurled from terraces, balconies and three-wheelers.
Attempting to move out of the war zone in a battered ambulance, Prabhakaran and two of his senior commanders came under a barrage of bullets from the government troops. The vehicle was burnt down and three or more charred bodies were recovered from it.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa confirmed Prabhakaran’s death during a telephone conversation with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
"The President of Sri Lanka has confirmed that armed resistance by the LTTE has come to an end and that LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran is dead," an official spokesman said in New Delhi.
"Sri Lanka is now free of the LTTE. We are one, united country," a triumphant army chief Lieutenant-General Sarath Fonseka, who led the military operations, told Hindustan Times.
Along with Prabhakaran, the entire top leadership was also wiped out.
|File picture of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. Courtesy: AFP|
The list of the LTTE leaders killed included intelligence chief Pottu Amman, Sea Tiger chief, Soosai, and Prabhakaran’s son, Charles Anthony.
Anthony was known to be the head of Information and Technology department of the LTTE. The defence ministry said that Prabhakaran was compelled to recruit his son to the outfit to avoid criticism over his hypocrisy. Anthony was given a very senior position after establishing a special non-fighting unit for him, the ministry added.
While Prabhakaran’s body was yet to be displayed, the SLA published photos of Anthony’s body.
"We intercepted transmission from LTTE communication system that he (Prabhakaran) had got into an ambulance with two other leaders. Soon afterward, we spotted the ambulance and attacked. It was burnt. We recovered three bodies," Fonseka said.
"We have been fighting the LTTE non-stop from August 2006. Now the country is under one flag. We accomplished the mission."
Prabhakaran’s death early Monday marked the end of LTTE, at least militarily, in Sri Lanka. Since 1983, the LTTE had been fighting for a separate nation state for the northern and eastern Tamils of Sri Lanka.
“We have cleared the whole country of the LTTE. All the LTTE cadres have been killed. The whole of Sri Lanka is now under the government. The LTTE has no control," Fonseka said.
Lankan special forces displayed the bodies of Nadesan, Pulidevan and Ramesh. Nadesan, a former police constable of Sri Lanka police, was the political head of the outfit.
Pulidevan was known to the head of "LTTE peace secretariat" while Ramesh was one of the most senior special military leaders of the outfit, the defence ministry said.