COLOMBO, May 21 (Kyodo) — The body of Velupillai Prabhakaran, leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, has been “reduced to ashes,” Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara, the army spokesman, told Kyodo News in an interview Thursday.
Nanayakkara said that Prabhakaran died during a confrontation with troops on Sunday night or Monday morning in a small mangrove island in the Nandithal Lagoon in the country’s north where the rebels put up their last fight.
Responding to questions, the spokesman said the rebel leader, who made all his cadres wear glass cyanide capsules round their necks to be bitten if captured, did not carry the suicide capsule that had long been a hallmark of the LTTE.
“Prabhakaran was clad in uniform, carried a weapon, a satellite phone, an LTTE identity card and a dog tag marked 01,” Nanayakkara said.
He said the cremation was ordered because the Sri Lankan government did not want a “cult” to build up around him or for others to seek to emulate his “terrorism.”
There have been differing versions of Prabhakaran’s final moments, beginning with a leak that he was one of a group that captured an army ambulance and were shot attempting to escape as the battle was reaching its final moments.
There are also allegations he was executed.
“He was not carrying any money,” the spokesman said. “But his son, Charles Anthony, carried more over 12 million rupees ($100,000) in a bag.”
Charles Anthony’s body was displayed on national television, but images of Prabhakaran’s body were not telecast until after the LTTE chief of international relations Selvarasa Pathmanathan claimed on the TamilNet website he was still alive.
Nanayakkara said Prabhakaran had a gunshot wound to the head and his bodyguards appeared to have been with him when he died.
The army, seeking to prevent “souvenirs” of the man who built and led one of the world’s most feared guerilla armies that once controlled nearly a third of Sri Lanka, destroyed all mementoes of the man.
“We don’t want him presented as a martyr,” the spokesman said.
Nanayakkara said the army killed 22,000 LTTE cadres while the military’s losses were 5,224 dead since the beginning of hostilities in the middle of 1986.
Asked about military losses in the last two or three months, the final stages of the war, Nanayakkara did not offer any numbers.
Until October last year, the prime minister made a monthly statement in parliament detailing the military and civilian dead and wounded in the fighting, but the reports ended after that.
Nanayakkara said there are still small groups of LTTE cadres as well as many “sleepers” all over the country, including Colombo, but he had no estimate of their number to offer.
“There are suicide groups, pistol gangs (and people with access to) claymore mines (used for roadside ambushes),” he said.
Armaments made in many countries, including the United States, Britain and China, and from the Korea Peninsula were used by the LTTE against the government but where and how the LTTE obtained them is unclear.
They also had chemical weapons such as white phosphorous grenades and CS gas canisters.
Nanayakkara denied reports the government forces used cluster bombs against the rebels, saying “we don’t have them,” but the army did have multi-barrel rocket launchers and long-range artillery.
More than 4,000 “self-confessed” LTTE activists are now supposedly among 250,000 civilians in camps for the internally displaced.
The activists will be given a chance to “rehabilitate themselves” and join the national mainstream, the army spokesman said.
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