Dismissing as "engineered rumours", the Sri Lankan government's assertion that Vellupillai Prabhakaran had been killed in the fighting in the north, the Tamil Tigers have claimed that the LTTE supremo is alive.
Days after the Sri Lankan military released a video footage of a corpse identifying it as that of Prabhakaran, the LTTE repeated its claim that its leadership was intact.
"Our beloved leader is alive," a pro-rebel website said, quoting Arivazhakan, the 'Head of International Secretariat of the Intelligence wing' of Tamil Tigers.
Is the 'death' framed?
The rebels termed as "engineered rumours" the Sri Lankan government's statement that Prabhakaran was killed in the combat on Monday.
"These rumours have been set afloat to confuse the global Tamil community which has been voicing support for the liberation of Tamil Eelam," Arivazhakan said.
The report also said that the rebel leadership "will make contact with its people at a suitable time in future."
The LTTE had denied reports of Prabhakaran's death on May 18 after the Sri Lankan military had claimed killing the Tiger leader.
"Our beloved leader is alive and safe. He will continue to lead the quest for dignity and freedom for the Tamil people," the rebels' international relations chief Selvarasa Pathmanathan had told Tamilnet website a day before the footage of Prabhakaran's body was released.
'We threw his ashes into Indian Ocean'
MEANWHILE, Prabhakaran's body has been cremated by Sri Lankan security forces, Army chief Gen Sarath Fonseka said, amid claims by rebels that their chief is alive.
Fonseka said the identification of 54-year-old Prabhakaran's body came on Tuesday morning after heavy confrontations in the northeastern Mullaittivu district the previous day.
"We cremated the body in the same area and threw the ashes into the (Indian) ocean," Fonseka told the Rivira newspaper in an interview, which will be published tomorrow.
"Even before Prabhakaran was killed, I knew we had won the war, but I was overjoyed when I had confirmation of his death," he said.
Fonseka said about 170 Tiger cadres were killed together with Prabhakaran on Monday.
Will the truth go up in smoke?
However, the bodies of Tiger intelligence chief Pottu Amman and Prabhakaran's wife, Mathiwadini, had not been identified, although Prabhakaran's eldest son Charles Anthony's body was found.
The government showed footage of Prabhakaran's body after the pro-rebel Tamilnet website first claimed on May 18 that he was alive and well.
Prabhakaran's former deputy, Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan, who defected in March 2004, and an ex-Tiger spokesman known as Daya Master were flown to the northeast on Tuesday and they positively identified their former boss, officials said.
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.
Fonseka said the information they had initially was that Prabhakaran was killed and his burnt body was found near ambulance. However, his body was found in a mangrove a short distance away.