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Killed, cremated and ashes thrown to the sea

When did LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran die on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon during its last attempt to break through an army cordon? What happened to LTTE Intelligence Wing leader Shanmugaligam Sivashanker alias Pottu Amman, whose body was never found among several hundred bodies recovered following the last battle?

The Army finished off LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon on the morning of May 19, 2009, though a section of the security establishment and the media say the terrorist leader was killed on the 18th.

Army headquarters credited officers and men of the 4VIR (Fourth Battalion of Vijayaba Infantry Regiment) for Prabhakaran’s demise along with dozens of his trusted cadres in a fire fight at about 7 am. The then Army Commander Gen. Sarath Fonseka came on Rupavahini to announce the recovery of Prabhakaran’s body by the 4 VIR, while the SLAF flew his erstwhile friend,

Vinayagamoorthy Muralidaran alias Karuna to identify the body. The announcement was made close on the heels of pro-LTTE Tamilnet declaring that the LTTE leader was safe. Ironically, the Tamilnet based its news item on a statement attributed to chief LTTE procurement agent Kumaran Padmanathan alias ‘KP’, who ended up in Sri Lankan custody a few months later.

The VIR battalion had been attached to the 53 Division, which had moved from the Jaffna peninsula southwards and fought its way to the final battle.

A source said Prabhakaran had a fresh wound on his head at the time of the recovery of his body. That was evidence Prabhakaran was shot during the May 19 battle. Had he being shot on the previous day, the Army would have known it, he said, adding he appeared to have had a shave within hours of the final confrontation.

Inclement weather forced the government to cancel a Victory Day parade by tri-services and the police scheduled for May 20 to celebrate the first anniversary of the conclusion of the war.

Prabhakaran’s son Charles Anthony was killed on May 18 while fleeing in an army bus seized by the LTTE during confrontations on the Vanni front. The LTTE launched attacks on several positions held by the Army with suicide cadres targeting the first line of defences at a point vulnerable to a raid. The LTTE succeeded in causing chaos on the front and forcing the Army to retreat about 2 km, but they never managed to penetrate the next cordon. Charles Anthony’s group had commandeered a bus and an ambulance belonging to the Army but the two vehicles had taken two different directions in an obvious bid to confuse the Army. One terrorist travelling in the ambulance had sent out a radio message indicating the LTTE leader was with him, thereby drawing the attention of the forces to the ambulance.

An official said: "They tried to confuse ground forces and create a situation in which Prabhakaran and Pottu Amman could fight their way to the dense jungles. But troops intercepted and annihilated all three groups, including that of Sea Tiger leader Soosai."

Some captured LTTE cadres had claimed that Pottu Amman took cyanide after being wounded. His wife too had taken cyanide, though her body was never found.

Contrary to reports at that time, the LTTE never tried to escape through a naval cordon in place. The elite Special Boat Squadron, Rapid Action Boat Squadron (RABS) and Fast Attack Craft (FACs) threw their full weight behind the blockade, which forced the enemy to fight its way through the Army and take refuge in the jungle. The LTTE never had an opportunity to evacuate the LTTE leadership by air, though some believed an attempt was possible. But as part of the overall security measures to meet such an eventuality, the SLAF had stationed a pair of jets at China Bay.

Had Prabhakaran, his family and top lieutenants escaped to the jungles, the Navy would have been blamed for the lapse, sources said. To the credit of the Navy, the units deployed at sea captured Soosai’s wife, while fleeing in a boat manned by an LTTE intelligence wing cadre. They were on their way to India.

Within 24 hours after the final battle, the Army cremated several hundred bodies, including that of Prabhakaran and his family and threw their ashes to sea.

A senior officer told The Island that the Army wanted to finish the job as quickly as possible. Gen. Fonseka in an interview with the ITN, declared that the offensives to liberate the East (August 2006-August 2007) and Vanni/North (March 2007-May 2009) could be named tsunami I and tsunami II.

The military said that the LTTE had made a desperate attempt to facilitate at least a section of its leadership to escape by having Prabhakaran, his son and Soosai in separate groups, while attaching Pottu Amman to the leader’s unit.

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