Tamil Tiger leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran appears to have vanished along with a fleet of at least three Czech-made Zlin 143 single-engine aircraft, a newspaper reported Saturday.
The Times said that although Sri Lankan forces have captured five of the six airstrips that were used by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Prabhakaran himself may have escaped.
It quoted Sri Lankan officials as saying they are unsure whether Prabakharan is in Mullaitivu, the LTTE's last outpost, or has already escaped - possibly by aircraft but more likely by boat.
“We have surrounded them from all sides and the only option for them is to jump into the sea,” army chief Lt.Gen. Sarath Fonseka said Friday.
The paper said that a navy ship spotted what looked like the lights of a small aircraft flying at high altitude over Mullaitivu at 8.35 a.m Wednesday but the lights appeared to turn back when anti-aircraft guns opened fire.
The paper said about 50,000 troops backed by fighter jets and helicopter gunships have now pinned down the last 1,000 LTTE guerrillas in forests around Mullaitivu.