Sri Lanka reveals evidence of rebel leader's death
President declares formal end to 26-year civil war and calls for unity.
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Later Tuesday, Sri Lankan TV showed footage of a corpse it claimed was Tamil Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, a day after the government announced he was dead.
Meanwhile, the Sinhalese majority broke out into celebrations across Sri Lanka, as one of Asia's longest-running civil wars appeared to draw to a close. (See an Associated Press video here, and a map of the military operation from The Nation here.)
But pro-Tamil protesters demonstrated outside Sri Lanka, including in London, where protests turned violent on Tuesday.
The BBC reports that President Mahinda Rajapaksa used his address to Parliament to declare that Sri Lanka had been "liberated," and call for unity between the Sinhalese majority, which makes up 74 percent of the population, and the Tamil minority at 18 percent of the population. (See a video excerpt of speech from the BBC here)
"Today we have been able to liberate the entire country from the clutches of terrorism," he said. "We have been able to defeat one of the most heinous terrorist groups in the world."
As he walked into parliament, schoolgirls sang an ancient song of praise, while lawmakers held up the national flag.
After speaking in his native Sinhala, President Rajapaksa switched to the language of the Tamil minority, saying ethnic and religious divisions should end.
The BBC noted that messages posted on TamilNet, the official Tamil Tigers' website, still insisted that the rebel leader was alive.
But The Times of London reports that the military was confident that the body shown on TV shortly after the president's speech Tuesday was Prabhakaran's.
Prabhakaran was wearing his signature combat fatigues and a dog tag bearing the serial number "001". His head was partially covered by a cloth.... A laminated Tamil Tiger ID card was also on display.
Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara, a military spokesman, told
that the body was recovered earlier today and the authorities were "100 per cent positive" that it was Prabhakaran.
Troops found Prabhakaran's bullet-ridden body on the bank of the Nanthikadal lagoon, the Ministry of Defence said on its website.
Bloomberg reports that Sri Lanka stocks shot up to a seven-month high Tuesday, after soaring 6.5 percent on Monday, on news of the military's victory.
Some Sri Lankan media hailed the victory, with editorials heaping scorn on the Tigers and their leadership, and congratulating the military for a job well done. From an editorial in The Island:
Prabhakaran's downfall had to do with hubris, racial hatred and unspeakable cruelty.
... At least now those who supported the LTTE for whatever reason should realize that the outfit they backed consisted of a pack of gender-confused hyenas and not 'Tigers' as such. No liberation movement, they need to be told, harms innocent men, women and children. ...
Now that the LTTE is a thing of the past at long last, let a concerted national effort be made to put the conflict behind us.
Perhaps, the USA, UK and France, never having successfully executed a military operation with such professionalism, honestly believed it was impossible.
They may have honestly believed that the only way to ferret out Prabhakaran or to eliminate him would be to do what they have tried in Iraq and Afghanistan: thousands of air strikes.
Such a strategy would no doubt have resulted in the bloodbath that some predicted.
Meanwhile, Agence France-Presse reports from London that three police officers and five protesters were sent to the hospital with injuries, and 10 protesters arrested, after demonstrations outside Parliament turned violent Tuesday.
The clashes broke out when police moved to disperse 2,500 Tamils who staged a sit-down outside parliament, with Scotland Yard claiming another 21 officers received minor injuries.
Sivendran Madajrajah, a 22-year-old student, complained of police aggression, claiming people "were being hit, kicked and stepped on by police."
The New York Times reported that the end of the civil war is sharpening divisions in the Sri Lankan immigrant community in the US. The Guardian reported similar divisions in the Sri Lankan online community, and noted that the Sri Lankan military was even using Twitter updates to inform that community.