Lankan TV shows body of Prabhakaran

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan state television broadcast video footage on Tuesday of what it said was the body of Tamil Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, hours after the rebels claimed he was still alive.

The footage showed the upper part of a corpse dressed in camouflage uniform and with a head wound. The face was intact, with the eyes wide open, and bore a clear resemblance to the rebel leader.

Part of the forehead was covered by a blue cloth, and the head was resting on a bloodstained newspaper — the rear section of the skull missing.

The images also showed Prabhakaran’s dog tag with the marking ‘0:01’ and his Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam identity card.

The broadcast came after the country’s army chief, General Sarath Fonseka, announced he was “very pleased to confirm that we have killed Prabhakaran.”

“The fighting was yesterday (Monday). He was killed yesterday, and the body was identified today,” the government’s defence spokesman, Keheliya Rambukwella, told reporters.

“We will give it (the body) to an undertaker. We can’t just throw the body in the jungle. We are a civilised country.”

He gave no details on the circumstances of the death. On Monday, military sources said Prabhakaran was shot dead along with his two deputies as they tried to flee in an ambulance and another van.

“They were confined to an area of about 300 square metres... Then we moved to kill all the terrorists. There were over 300 bodies and Prabakaran’s body was among them,” Rambukwella said, adding a magisterial inquiry will be held into the death as part of a routine judicial procedure.

Hours earlier, a Tamil Tiger spokesman claimed the rebel leader was “alive and safe,” and accused government troops of murdering his aides who tried to surrender.

In a statement carried by the pro-separatist website Tamilnet, the Tiger official accused the Sri Lankan government of fabricating news of Prabhakaran’s death “to gloat” over its rout of the rebel army.

“Our beloved leader is alive and safe. He will continue to lead the quest for dignity and freedom for the Tamil people,” the Tigers’ chief of international relations, Selvarasa Pathmanathan, said in a statement. Pathmanathan denied suggestions that Prabhakaran had been shot dead while fleeing.