As Sri Lanka declared victory in one of the world's most
intractable wars, the European Union and United States urged its
government to reach out to its Tamil population and protect
civilians caught up in the fighting.
In a climactic gun battle, special
forces troops killed Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) leader
Vellupillai Prabhakaran on Monday as he tried to flee the war zone,
state television said, giving the government control of the entire
country for the first time since 1983.
But a LTTE official told a
pro-Tamil website that the Tiger chief was still alive.
"I wish to inform the global Tamil
community distressed witnessing the final events of the war that our
beloved leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran is alive and safe,"
www.TamilNet.com quoted LTTE diplomatic head Selvarajah Pathmanathan
Prabhakaran, 54, founded the LTTE
on a culture of suicide before surrender, and swore he would never
be taken alive.
ADDRESS TO THE NATION
In an address to the nation from
Parliament on Tuesday, President Mahinda Rajapaksa said the entire
country was now under government control.
"We have totally liberated the
country from Tamil Tiger terrorism. Now we have established our rule
in the entire country," he said.
Western powers urged the government
to engage the Tamil community for the future.
"This is an opportunity for Sri
Lanka to turn the page on its past and build a Sri Lanka rooted in
democracy, tolerance and respect for human rights," U.S. State
Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters on Monday.
Sri Lankan army commander
Lieutenant-General Sarath Fonseka said troops had crushed the last
Tigers resisting an offensive that has in less than three years
destroyed a group that had cultivated an aura of military
invincibility while earning many terrorism designations.
Rajapaksa had already declared
victory on Saturday, even as the final battle in Asia's longest
modern war was intensifying after Sri Lanka said the last of 72,000
civilians held in the war zone had been freed.
The Tigers have long warned they
would intensify guerrilla attacks on economically valuable targets
if defeated on the battlefield. The past violence has hindered
growth in Sri Lanka's tourism sector.
But the end of conventional combat
and Prabhakaran's death sent the currency and stock markets to
one-month and seven-month highs respectively on Monday.
The Sri Lankan government's triumph
was not without controversy. Aside from the U.S. comments, the
European Union urged an independent inquiry into alleged human
rights violations, mainly over reported civilian deaths.
The U.N. humanitarian affairs chief
voiced concern over the fate of several "heroic" Sri Lankan doctors
whom the government accused of being propagandists for Tamil Tiger
Sri Lanka accuses the West of
double standards when it comes to civilian deaths, and points to
U.S. air strikes that have killed innocent people in Afghanistan and
Pakistan as an example.
In Colombo on Monday, demonstrators
threw rocks at the British High Commission, tossed a burning effigy
of Foreign Secretary David Miliband inside and spray-painted its
heavily fortified wall with epithets and a message: "LTTE
The final act of Sri Lanka's civil
war played out on a sandy patch of just 300 sq meters (3,230 sq ft)
near the Indian Ocean island's northeastern coast, where the
military said the last Tiger fighters had holed up in bunkers
guarded by land mines and booby traps.
More than 250 Tigers corpses were
recovered, and Fonseka said checks were underway to see if
Prabhakaran's was among them.
Independent confirmation of
battlefield accounts is all but impossible, since the war zone has
been sealed off to most outsiders.
Tamils and their supporters
demonstrating outside Britain's parliament on Monday refused to
believe the war was over or the LTTE defeated.
"It's not true, no way," Sri
Lankan-born Jey Moorthy, 23, who claimed to be a Tamil Tiger. "I
don't think my leader (is) dead." Rajapaksa has pledged to call
elections in the former LTTE areas as swiftly as possible.
Tamils complain of marginalization
at the hands of successive governments led by the Sinhalese
majority, which came to power at independence in 1948 and took the
favored position the Tamils had enjoyed under the British colonial
(Additional reporting by David Gray
and Shihar Aneez; David Brunnstrom in BRUSSELS, Adrian Croft in
LONDON, Louis Charbonneau in WASHINGTON, S. Murari in CHENNAI, and
Krittivas Mukherjee in NEW DELHI; Writing by Valerie Lee; Editing by