Sides duel over whether Tamil leader alive

May 19, 2009 at 10:07 AM
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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, May 19 (UPI) -- Sri Lankan TV aired photos of what officials identified as the body of Tamil Tigers leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, who rebels claimed was still alive.

The grim photos showed Prabhakaran wearing combat fatigues and a dog tag with the serial number "001," The Times of London reported Tuesday. His head was partially covered by a cloth but a wound was visible.

On the rebels' Web site TamilNet, rebel spokesman Selvarasa Pathmanathan Tuesday rejected the government's claim of killing Prabhakaran and accused Colombo of "treachery in the killing of the political wing leaders."

Military spokesman Udaya Nanayakkara told the British newspaper government authorities were "100 percent positive" the body recovered Tuesday was that of Prabhakaran. Officials said Prabhakaran was killed Monday in an ambush while attempting to break through government lines.

Nanayakkara dismissed the Tamil Tigers' claims that Prabhakaran was alive, safe and would "continue to lead the quest for dignity and freedom for the Tamil people."

The claims and counterclaims about Prabhakaran came as Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse announced the "complete defeat" of the rebels and pledged to move forward with a "homegrown political solution" to end ethnic conflicts between the majority Sinhalese population and the minority Tamils, the Times said.

Sri Lanka would seek international aid to rebuild the former Tiger strongholds in the north and east of the country, he said.

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