Dead, no doubt!

Close on the heels of pro-LTTE Tamilnet claim that LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran had survived Monday’s bloody military onslaught, Army Chief General Sarath Fonseka yesterday declared that his troops had found the body of the terrorist leader.

General Fonseka, in a special statement aired over Rupavahini, said that he made the announcement on behalf of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. A jubilant Army Chief said that the scourge of LTTE terrorism had been eliminated and the entire country brought under one flag. He emphasised that there was absolutely not an iota of truth in the story that the terror leader had survived Monday’s confrontation.

The Tamilnet in a report posted on its website on Tuesday (01:52 GMT) rejected what it called Colombo’s claim of killing Prabhakaran and assured his safety and well-being. The statement attributed to ‘KP’, wanted by India over the assassination of the Congress Party leader Rajiv Gandhi emphasised that Prabhakaran would continue to lead the ‘quest for dignity and freedom for the Tamil people.’

Prabhakaran’s body was found yesterday (May 19), with gunshot injury lying on the bank of the Nanthikadal lagoon by VIR troops. The Army also found an LTTE identity card on him. Major General Kamal Gunarathne, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of 53 Division and Brigadier Shavindra Silva, the GOC of the 58 Division visited the scene of the recovery. ITN showed triumphant troops raising their weapons as the senior officers inspected the body.

Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara told The Island the body of Prabhakaran’s second son hadn’t been found.

During Monday’s battles the Army killed over 400 LTTE cadres in the Mullaitivu District. Military sources said that of them, about 250 including LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran’s eldest son had been killed in the area held by the 53 Division after they breached the Army defences in the early hours of Monday.

A large group of LTTE cadres disguised as civilians had reached an entry point manned by the 53 Division at 2 a.m. on Monday and sought entry, sources said. But troops had requested them to wait at the entry point promising to take them inside at the first light. But they had insisted that they be admitted as there were some wounded civilians among the group. "All of a sudden, they opened fire with a range of weapons including machine guns," a senior military official told The Island.

Although the attackers had fought their way into the government-held area, the Army acted swiftly to bring in reinforcements to thwart a breakthrough. Army Chief General Sarath Fonseka had issued a series of directives to ground commanders to ensure the total destruction of the enemy, sources said.

The 58 Division which was preparing to clear the last LTTE stronghold north of Karaymullivaikkal at first light on Monday, too, joined the 53 Division troops along with the Special Forces and Commandos. The Army said that following confrontations, troops had recovered 250 bodies including that of Charles Anthony. Prabhakaran, his intelligence wing leader Pottu Amman and Sea Tiger leader Soosai had been among the group.

To the credit of the 58 Division commanded by Brigadier Shavindra Silva, the Division had launched the final assault on the LTTE held one sq. km area as previously planned. The 58 Division spearheaded by Special Forces had cleared the area by Monday afternoon killing over 100 LTTE cadres. A senior spokesman told The Island that the 58 Division had recovered bodies of 120 cadres by Monday evening and a further 30 on Tuesday morning.

Among the cadres identified on Monday were Political Wing leader Nadesan, his wife, ‘Colonel’ Ramesh, Peace Secretariat chief Pulidevan and Illango, chief of the so-called ‘Thamileelam police’.

Sources said that over ten million rupees had also been recovered by troops.

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