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Colombo, May 24: Ending its stoic silence over the death of Tamil Tiger supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran, the LTTE on Sunday said the top rebel leader was killed in last week's final battle with the Sri Lankan military in the north.
We announce today, with inexpressible sadness and heavy hearts that our incomparable leader and supreme commander (Prabhakaran)... attained martyrdom fighting the military oppression," the LTTE's head of International Relations Selvarasa Pathmanathan said in a statement today.

"For over three decades, our leader was the heart and soul and the symbol of hope, pride and determination for the whole nation of people of Tamil Eelam," Pathmanathan said.

The Sri Lankan Army had on Monday last said it has killed Prabhakaran when he tried to flee in an ambulance. But, the LTTE immediately rejected the army claim, saying Tamil Tiger supremo was alive and safe.

The Tigers had dismissed the announcement by the Sri Lankan government about Prabhakaran's death as "engineered rumours".

"These rumours have been set afloat to confuse the global Tamil community which has been voicing support for the liberation of Tamil Eelam," a pro-rebel website had said, quoting Arivazhakan, the 'Head of International Secretariat of the Intelligence wing' of Tamil Tigers.

However, in today's statement, Pathmanathan said 54-year-old Prabhakaran died fighting military but did not give details of the circumstances that led to his death.

He also announced a week of mourning for their dead leader, starting tomorrow.

The statement calls on Tamils all over the world to "restrain from harmful acts to themselves or anyone else in this hour of extreme grief."

"Since the failure of the peace process and the escalation of the war forced upon the Tamil people, the LTTE was faced to confront the Sri Lankan military that was supported by the world powers.

"This deliberate bias and position taken by the international community severely weakened the military position of the LTTE," he said.

"Our leader confronted this threat without any hesitation. He would not waver in his desire to be with his people and fight for his people till the end," he said.

"His (Prabhakaran) final request was for the struggle to continue until we achieved the freedom," Pathmanathan said, adding "his legend and the historical status as the greatest Tamil leader ever are indestructible."

The Sri Lankan troops recovered Prabhakaran's body near a lagoon in the 'No Fire Zone' in the Wanni region. The Army had yesterday said that they have cremated the body.

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