LTTE trounced, Prabhakaran untraced

Colombo: The Tamil Tiger rebels admitted defeat in their 25-year-old war with the Sri Lankan government on Sunday, offering to lay down their guns as government forces swept across their last strongholds in the northeast. The government rejected the last-ditch call for a cease-fire, saying the thousands of civilians trapped in the war zone all have escaped to safety and there was no longer any reason to stop the battle. The military said the remaining guerrillas were still fighting. With a war that has killed well over 70,000 people nearing its end, Sri Lankans poured into the streets in spontaneous celebration. President Mahinda Rajapaksa scheduled a nationally televised news conference for Tuesday morning at Parliament, where he was expected to tell the nation the war was over.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s defence ministry said today its advancing troops had found no trace of defeated Tamil Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, although the bodies of two mid-ranking rebels were recovered.

Spokesman Lakshman Hulugalle said the military had not found Prabhakaran dead or alive during their offensive and dismissed a flurry of rumours about the fate of the 54-year-old veteran guerrilla leader. “We have no information about Prabhakaran,” Hulugalle said.

A military official said the bodies of two mid-level Tiger leaders were identified after a shootout today while a search for Prabhakaran was under way.

Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said the security forces were yet to come across Prabhakaran and his top aides, including intelligence chief Pottu Amman and Colonel Soosai, the head of the Sea Tiger unit.

“We have still not come across Prabhakaran and his senior leaders,” Nanayakkara told reporters here. “We believe they are still in this land. We hope to meet them soon.” Military sources said that Prabhakaran was known to have two body doubles as part of his tight security. The Tiger leader has never been arrested since he jumped bail in neighbouring India in the early 1980s.

He is known for wearing a cyanide capsule around his neck with which to commit suicide to prevent being taken alive. The cyanide is a standard part of the Tigers’ uniform.