The one and only chief of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Vellupillai Prabhakaran, has been reportedly killed along with his son and three other Tiger commanders by an elite unit of the Sri Lankan army, reports say.
His body was reportedly recovered from an ambulance that troops destroyed as it was speeding out of the war zone early this morning.
Prabhakaran was reportedly ambushed and shot dead while he was trying to breach the tight security cordon as the Lankan Special Forces closed in on the last rebel fortifications.
Sri Lanka's State television (Roopavahini) broke the news, in which military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara confirmed Prabhakaran's death. He said 250 Tamil Tigers were killed overnight and that all territory was now in the hands of the Sri Lankan army.
The government has put the capital Colombo on high alert following the reported killing of the LTTE chief over fears that some Tiger cadres who might have sneaked out of the war zone earlier may attempt suicide attacks.
Meanwhile, the President has convened a high-level meeting of his cabinet and army officers following the killing of Prabhakaran. An official announcement on the confirmation of Prabhakaran's death from the government is expected later in the day.
Earlier Monday, Brig. Nanayakkara said troops had found the body of Prabhakaran's eldest son, Charles Anthony.
Separately, the military said that during mop-up operations in the last remaining Tiger enclave, units of its Special Forces found the bodies of the rebel political wing leader, Balasingham Nadesan, the head of the LTTE peace secretariat, Seevaratnam Puleedevan, and one of the top military leaders, alias Ramesh.
Sri Lanka's State TV also beamed images of the corpse of Prabhakaran's son, Charles Anthony.
Brig. Nanayakkara said about 63,000 civilians, trapped in the war zone, fled to safety in the past 72 hours.
Confirming it, Amin Awad, a representative of the U.N. refugee agency, said, "almost all the population in the conflict zone--about 60,000--had left". He said that the displaced were being "processed at the Omanthai crossing-point. That leaves very few, if any, people in the conflict zone".
The Sri Lankan ministry of disaster management and human rights said Sunday that it was continuing to process civilians rescued from the fighting.
More than 70,000 persons were killed in the conflict that was started in 1983. The U.N. said 6,000 persons were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced in just the last four months.
Sinhala Protest Over U.K. Role
Protesters in Sri Lanka demonstrated in front of the British High Commission in Colombo and set fire to an effigy of Foreign Secretary David Miliband, accusing the British government of supporting the LTTE. Miliband had repeatedly called for a cease-fire in the conflict zone and for civilians to be allowed to leave the war-torn northern area.
More than 1,000 protestors gathered in front of the High Commission building in Colombo, threw rotten eggs and stones at the compound, before tossing the burning effigy over its walls.
A spokesman from the commission said some of the compound's stonework was damaged, graffiti was sprayed on the walls and a CCTV camera was blacked out during the hour-long protest. There was no damage to the inner compound, and no one from the commission was injured, he added.
The protests came a day after the Indian Ocean island-nation's President Mahinda Rajapakse claimed victory in the 25-year-old ethnic conflict.
It also came as European Union foreign ministers decided to call for an independent inquiry into alleged war crimes committed by the LTTE--which has long been on the 27-member bloc's list of banned terrorist outfits--as well those by the Sri Lankan government during the latter's offensive against the rebels in the northeast.
The British government said Sunday it would give another £5m in aid to Sri Lanka amid concerns for those trapped in the zone where the last rebels remain.
Announcing the aid, International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander said: "It is vital that the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers allow international agencies immediate access to the thousands of people driven from their homes by the fighting."
The British aid will provide essentials, including shelter, water, sanitation and medical care and, when possible, supporting displaced persons in making a "dignified and safe" return to their homes.
by RTT Staff Writer
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