“Prabhakaran’s body was found near Nandikadal lagoon (in the No Fire Zone),” military spokesman Brig Udaya Nanayakkara told PTI.
He said Prabhakaran was in uniform and there were bullet wounds on his head.
Military officials, giving details of the encounter in which the LTTE chief was killed yesterday, said that Prabhakaran and his two top commanders, Pottu Amman and sea Tiger chief Soosai, drove out of their hideout in an armoured vehicle escorted by his armed cadres in an ambulance.
They tried to drive through the security cordon of army, triggering a 2-hour battle which ended when troops targeted the vehicle with a rocket and later took out the bodies.
Prabhakaran’s body, the officials said yesterday, bore burn marks apparently due to the direct impact of the rocket on the vehicle which was carrying the LTTE chief.
However, the pro-rebel Tamilnet website claimed that Prabhakaran was still “alive and safe”.
“I wish to inform the global Tamil community distressed witnessing the final events of the war that our beloved leader Velupillai Prabhakaran is alive and safe,” LTTE’s International Relations head S Pathmanathan was quoted as saying by the website.
The announcement on Sri Lanka’s state television came shortly after the military said it had surrounded Prabhakaran in a tiny patch of jungle in the north-east, the BBC reported.
The head of the Sri Lankan army Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka said the military had defeated the rebels and “liberated the entire country”.
“Today we finished the work handed to us by the president to liberate the country from the LTTE,” Gen Fonseka said in the broadcast. He said troops were working to identify Prabhakaran’s body from among the dead.
The broadcast quoted military officials as saying Prabhakaran, 54, was killed along with two of his deputies.
It said Prabhakaran, his intelligence chief Pottu Amman and Soosai, the head of the rebels’ naval wing, were shot dead in an ambush in the Mullivaikal district while trying to escape the war zone in an ambulance.
Earlier, at least three senior rebel leaders were killed, including Prabhakaran’s eldest son, Charles Anthony, the military said.
Sri Lankan military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara confirmed Prabhakaran’s death, saying 250 Tamil Tigers were also killed overnight.
The government’s information department also sent news of Prabhakaran’s death by text message to mobile phones across the country, according to the BBC report, adding that the death of the Tiger supremo could not be confirmed independently as reporters have been barred from going to the area.
More than 70,000 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced in the brutal insurgency lasting for 25 years.
On Sunday, four senior rebel leaders were killed in fighting, the army said.
They included the head of the Tigers” political wing, Balasingham Nadesan, the head of rebels” peace secretariat Seevaratnam Puleedevan, and a military leader known as Ramesh.
The latest claims cannot be verified as reporters are barred from the war zone.
If confirmed, Prabhakaran’s death could signal the end of the nearly three decade-long civil-ethnic war that cost the island nation the lives of thousands of innocent civilians.
Meanwhile, injured civilians continue to leave Sri Lanka”s war zone to get medical care.
The movement of civilians out of the war zone comes as the LTTE conceded defeat after sending out suicide attackers as part of a last-ditch attempt to keep the military”s final assault at bay on the square kilometre they control.
“This battle has reached its bitter end. We have decided to silence our guns,” the LTTE”s diplomatic chief, Selvarajah Pathmanathan, said in a statement posted on the pro-rebel web site http://www.TamilNet.com on Sunday
A day before, Sri Lanka”s President Mahinda Rajapaksa had declared victory after troops seized the entire coast for the first time since the war erupted in 1983.