19 May 2009

Sri Lanka rebel chief killed - state TV

5:52 pm on 19 May 2009

Sri Lanka's government declared total victory in one of the world's most intractable wars, after killing the separatist Tamil Tigers' leader and taking control of the entire country for the first time since 1983.

State television reported special forces troops killed Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran as he tried to flee the war zone in an ambulance early on Monday.

Officially, the military has not confirmed the leader's death. President Mahinda Rajapaksa is expected to do so on Tuesday in a speech to be broadcast nationally from parliament.

The BBC reports the announcement of the end of the war and news of the rebel leader's death prompted celebrations in the capital Colombo.

The final act played out on a sandy patch of just 300 square metres 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.

The military has long viewed killing Prabhakaran, 54, as essential to stopping the Tamil Tigers from regenerating, since he has maintained total control over the group since founding it in 1976.

The European Union on Monday urged an independent inquiry into alleged human rights violations, mainly over reported civilian deaths.