In life, LTTE chief V Prabhakaran outmanoeuvered the Sri Lankan army several times. In death too, the rebel chief seemed to put Colombo in a tizzy.
After the Lankan military formally announced about Prabhakaran’s death on Tuesday, more than a day after he was reportedly shot dead, conflicting reports about his death had come from the military on Monday.
One report said the body was charred, the other said a DNA test had to be done to confirm the identity.
To confound the situation, the LTTE released a statement that Prabhakaran was safe.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa too avoided any mention of Prabhakaran when he addressed the nation from Parliament on Tuesday.
He instead focused on wiping out of the LTTE and promising the Tamil community that they would be protected.
It was left to newly promoted army chief, General Sarath Fonseka, to make the formal announcement about Prabhakaran’s death.
“Commander of Sri Lanka Army General Sarath Fonseka has confirmed that the body of V. Prabhakaran, psychopathic leader of world’s most barbaric terrorist outfit LTTE...,” the defence ministry said.
Subsequently, the military released purported video footage of Prabhakaran’s body.
“The 4th Vijayabahu Regiment(4 VIR) troops led by Lt. Colonel Rohitha Aluvihare under the 53 Division commanded by Major General Kamal Goonarathne, have found the bullet ridden body of the terrorist on the bank of the Nanthikadal lagoon,’’ the defence ministry added.
The footage showed soldiers displaying an identity card with Prabhakaran’s photo, some details written in Tamil and the LTTE symbol of the growling tiger embossed in the background.
The body also seemed bloated, possibly because the LTTE chief had been killed at least a day earlier. While the military claimed he was shot, it could not be independently verified.
A close scrutiny of still photographs seemed to reveal that his hands had turned white or pale, an indication of cyanide poisoning. Prabhakaran had once vowed that he would never be taken alive. The formal announcement came hours after the pro-LTTE website, TamilNet, released a statement that the rebel leader was alive.