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Prabhakaran might be hiding in Mullaitivu: SL army chief

world Updated: Apr 06, 2009 21:36 IST

Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers chief Velupillai Prabhakaran may be still be hiding in the northeastern Mullaitivu district, Army Chief Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka said on Monday.

Fonseka's comments came a day after the Sri Lankan Army claimed to have dealt a major military blow to the rebels by killing over 500 guerrillas of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The army chief made his remarks while briefing US Ambassador for Sri Lanka Robert O'Blake on the situation "related to the near completion of military offensives in the deep north and east of Puthukkudiyiruppu".

"Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka further opined that Tiger supremo Prabhakaran, despite loss of so many of his chieftains, might still be hiding, either inside the NFZ (no-fire-zone) or an underground hideout," the army said in a statement.

The army chief, who is personally conducting the fight-to-finish campaign against the LTTE over the past four years, also told the US envoy that the troops "are well-prepared for receipt of more and more civilians into cleared areas".

After three days of fierce close-quarter gun-battles, Sri Lankan troops on Sunday captured Puthukkudiyiruppu, the last bastion of the LTTE, where the rebels have maintained several military and naval bases and armoury over the past three decades.

According to latest military reports, the troops have recovered from the newly captured areas over 525 LTTE dead bodies, which include a dozen of top-rung leaders of the outfit.

A large haul of weapons, including several artillery and anti-aircraft guns have also been recovered since Sunday.

Giving a brief outline of the latest military achievement, General Fonseka told the US envoy that "the remaining exodus of trapped civilians could be expected at any moment from now onwards in view of prevailing ground realities in the no-fire zone".