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Prabhakaran shot dead, says Sri Lankan army

May 18, 2009 19:03 IST

Image: An undated photograph supplied by the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence shows the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran standing with his wife Mathivathani, his son Balachandran and his daughter Duwaraka from a collection of photographs that government soldiers said they discovered recently in a hideout in northern Sri Lanka
Photographs: Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence/Handout/Reuters

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran was on Monday shot dead by Sri Lankan special forces as he tried to stage a dramatic breakout from the army encirclement, a military spokesman said.

"They (LTTE leaders) were all killed by the army during combat. They did not commit suicide. We are now in full control of the country," military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said.

Army chief Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka, who is considered to be the strategist who plotted the current military campaign against the LTTE, said, "Our armed forces have militarily defeated the LTTE and freed the nation from three decades of terror".

His spokesman Nanayakkara said, "We believe Prabhakaran was amongst those 250 LTTE cadres who were killed. No DNA tests are to be carried out. We are identifying the bodies based on the intelligence information we have".

Prabhakaran shot dead

Image: An undated photograph supplied by the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence shows LTTE leader Prabhakaran playing with his son Balachandran as soldiers from the LTTE watch
Photographs: Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence/Handout/Reuters

Prabhakaran and his top aides came out of their last hiding place in a small convoy of van and an ambulance and tried to drive out of the war zone, but were gunned down, he said.

The Tiger chief was killed with two others, who are yet to be identified but believed to be his closest associates LTTE intelligence chief Pottu Amman and Sea Tigers' chief Soosoi.

Prabhakaran shot dead

Image: Prabhakaran (Left) with other LTTE members
Photographs: Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence/Handout/Reuters

The deaths of the top LTTE  leaders came a day after Tamil Tigers conceded defeat, saying the decades-old battle has reached its 'bitter end' and they have decided to 'silence' their guns.

Earlier in the morning, military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara had said that Prabhakaran was still alive but completely encircled by advancing Sri Lankan forces in a tiny jungle area north of Vellamullivaikkal, after most of the LTTE's top leaders were found killed.

Prabhakaran shot dead

Image: Prabhakaran with his son Balachandran and wife Mathivathani
Photographs: Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence/Handout/Reuters

The army said that its special forces had encircled Prabhakaran, Pottu Aman and Soosoi, who were boxed into a 100m x 100m area. The killing of Prabhakaran came as officials confirmed that more than 220 frontline rebel cadres, including his elder son Charles Anthony, LTTE political head Balasingham Nadesan and LTTE peace secretariat chief S Pulidevan had been killed in fierce battles in the last 12 hours.

The other slain top LTTE leaders include Black Tigers' chief Ramesh, Tigers' police wing chief Ilango and senior leaders Sundaram and Kapil Amman. The body of 24-year-old Anthony, chief of LTTE's air wing, was found during mopping up operations in the last rebel-held territory in the no-fire zone this morning, the defence ministry said.

Prabhakaran shot dead

Image: Prabhakaran (left) and his son Charles Anthony (second from right)
Photographs: Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence/Handout/Reuters

Nadesan, a former constable of the Sri Lankan police, was heading the political wing of the Tamil Tigers. S Pulidevan was the head of the 'LTTE peace secretariat' while S Ramesh was the chief of Black Tigers.

According to the defence sources, the body of Anthony was found after an unsuccessful attempt by the Tamil Tigers to evacuate their leader's son early this morning. Anthony was known to be the head of the Information and Technology department of the LTTE. After being cornered, the LTTE had on Sunday said it had no other option but to silence its guns.

Prabhakaran shot dead

Image: Prabhakaran swimming in a pool with his son Balachandran
Photographs: Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence/Handout/Reuters

"We remain with one last choice -- to remove the last weak excuse of the enemy for killing our people. We have decided to silence our guns," LTTE's chief of international relations Selvarasa Pathmanathan had said.

"This battle has reached its bitter end," Pathmanathan said, adding that "our only regrets are for the lives lost and that we could not hold out for longer." The rebels' statement followed President Mahinda Rajapaksa's declaration on Friday in Jordan that the LTTE has been defeated militarily.

Prabhakaran shot dead

Image: Prabhakaran with his wife Mathivathani, son Charles Anthony and parents
Photographs: Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence/Handout/Reuters

"My government, with the total commitment of our armed forces, has in an unprecedented humanitarian operation, finally defeated the LTTE militarily," Rajapaksa had said.

The over three-decades old conflict for a separate Tamil state, waged by the LTTE, has left more than 70,000 dead in pitched battles, suicide attacks, bomb strikes and assassinations.

Tamil Tiger Supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran, whose outfit conceded defeat, was very clear about his demand for an Tamile Eelam and asked his cadres to shoot him if he ever swayed away from it, his former confidante has said.

Prabhakaran shot dead

Image: Prabhakaran with wife Mathivathani (2nd Left), son Charles Anthony and two unidentified relatives
Photographs: Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence/Handout/Reuters

"But his commitment for Tamil Eelam could not be doubted. He even told the LTTE members that in case he (Prabhakaran) swayed away from the desire to carve out a separate Tamileelam, then he should not be spared and killed," said his former aid turned foe D Siddharthan, who formed the People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Ealam after falling out with the LTTE leader.

Siddharthan, who along with former LTTE leaders Krishnan and Guhan opened the first LTTE office in London in the 1970s, split with Prabhakaran following differences.

Prabhakaran shot dead

Image: LTTE leader Prabhakaran with wife Mathivathani, son Balachandran and daughter Duwaraka
Photographs: Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence/Handout/Reuters

Their enmity became so acute became that Prabhakaran had ordered his cadres to kill Siddharthan.

The PLOTE leader said that Prabhakaran failed to realise the ground realities because of his 'intransigence and lack of understanding of the geo-political reality'.

"Prabhakaran failed to use the military might to benefit the Tamil community. He pushed the Tamils into an abyss," he said.

Prabhakaran shot dead

Image: Prabhakaran with wife Mathivathani
Photographs: Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence/Handout/Reuters

Prabhakaran, who led a ruthless movement for more than three decades, was a dogged fighter for a separate homeland for Tamils in Sri Lanka, but his opponents saw him as a megalomaniac who never tolerated dissent.

The 54-year-old son of a government officer and a school dropout gave a new dimension to militancy by pioneering suicide bombing and cynaide death for cadres under attack in the war for Tamil Eelam, which that consumed more than 70,000 lives including a score of Sinhalese and Tamil leaders, apart from former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Prabhakaran shot dead

Image: LTTE leader Prabhakaran at the wedding of his daughter Duwaraka

Started in 1972 as Tamil New Tigers by a group of young boys headed by him and renamed as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in 1975, the outfit became more aggressive after the infamous Wellikade jail massacre, in which separatists leaders Kuttimani and Jagan were eliminated by the forces.

Though the LTTE occasionally paused for diplomacy, first initiated by India in Thimpu in 1985 and later by Norway in 2002, there was no looking back for the dreaded organisation from its chosen path of violence. Prabhakaran led the LTTE from the secret jungles of Wanni in northern Sri Lanka and survived many a battle, but the current assault from the Lankan forces ended his dream as well as his life.

A 'freedom fighter' for his supporters and a dreaded terrorist for others, Prabhakaran was wanted by Interpol and many other organisations since 1990 for terrorism, murder and organised crime.

Known as 'thambi' (younger brother), Prabhakaran was responsible for the elimination of Sinhalese leaders -- President Premadasa, Damini Dissanayake (UNP Presidential candidate) and Ranjan Wijeratne and moderate Tamil leaders -- Appapillai Amirthalingam, Yogeswaran and his wife and Lakshman Kadirgamar, who was a foreign minister.

He did not spare his comrade-in-arms like PLOTE leader Uma Maheswaran, TELO's Siri Sabarathinam, EPRLF's Padmanabha and 14 of his colleagues in Chennai, besides his own LTTE dissenters like Mahthiah.

What started as a liberation movement in the late 1970s to attain freedom for 'oppressed' Tamils, later evolved as a ruthless organisation for which violence became a legitimate tool to eliminate political opponents.

Prabhakaran shot dead

Image: Prabhakaran (Centre) and his wife Mathivathani (front row, Centre) sitting with LTTE soldiers
Photographs: Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence/Handout/Reuters

After the LTTE's battle with the IPKF in the jungles of Sri Lanka, Prabhakaran targeted Rajiv Gandhi and chose Sriperumbudur near Chennai to kill him during the election campaign in 1991, by using a suicide bomber. The LTTE had a grouse that Gandhi had imposed a peace agreement on the Tamils forcibly in 1987 and the IPKF was used to attack its cadre.

In his outfit's struggle for the separate Tamil homeland, Prabhakaran introduced suicide bombers, mostly young women, and targeted major installations of the Sri Lankan government, including military headquarters and the lone international airport in the country.

Born on 26 November, 1954 in the northern coastal town of Velvettithurai on the Jaffna peninsula, Prabhakaran, the youngest of four children, began attending political meetings and practising martial arts and soon became involved in the Tamil protest movement. Prabhakaran founded the LTTE in the late 1970s and carried out his first political murder against the mayor of Jaffna, Alfred Duraiappah, a fellow Tamil, by shooting him at point blank range while he was about to enter Hindu temple at Ponnaalai.

Though no one is sure about Prabhakaran's personal life, he got married to Madhivadhani on October 1, 1984 in Tirupporur near Chennai and has daughter named Duwaraka -- two sons -- Charles Anthony and Balachandran.

While Charles was in the battlefront during the final phase of the war, the whereabouts of others are not known, but it is widely speculated that they are not in Sri Lanka. Though his followers consider him as a freedom fighter struggling for Tamil emancipation from Sinhala oppression, various nations, including India, have banned the organisation and branded him as a terrorist.
The LTTE is the only terrorist outfit in the world to have three armed forces wings -- Tigers (ground), Sea Tigers (Navy) and Air Tigers -- (Air Force). Interestingly, Black Tigers, the suicide wing of the LTTE, came into prominence when the Tigers launched their first suicide attack against a Sri Lankan army camp, killing 40 soldiers. The outfit has also earned the ire of human rights groups who allege that the LTTE recruits young children to fight against the army.

LTTE, which is believed to be funded by Tamils living in Europe and other countries across the world, agreed for a ceasefire with Sri Lanka in 2002.

But both the sides continued to violate the agreement, which was brokered by Norway, until it was formally abrogated by the Mahinda Rajapakse government.

Prabhakaran and the LTTE received a major blow when his confidant Colonel Karuna parted ways and formed his own outfit.However, he later converted as an opponent of the Tamil movement and is now serving as a minister. An estimated 4,000 cadres have been killed since then, including over a hundred in 'Black Tiger' suicide squads.