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COLOMBO, 19 MAY, PTI: Sri Lankan President Mr Mahinda Rajapakse today officially announced the end of the over 25-year-old civil war against the LTTE as the army confirmed that the body of rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran has been positively identified.The Sri Lankan armed forces located Prabhakaran’s body and splashed the image on national television barely an hour after the LTTE claimed that he was alive and that the group would continue to fight for a separate homeland. “Prabhakaran’s body was found near Nandikadal lagoon (in the no-fire zone),”

Army Chief Gen Sarath Fonseka said in a televised address a short while after LTTE raised questions over his death with its new international spokesman S Pathmanathan saying Prabhakaran was “alive and safe”.

The images of the body telecast showed Prabhakaran in full battle fatigues with a bullet-hole in the temple and his head resting on a newspaper. His face was intact, with eyes wide open, and the image bore a close resemblance to the stocky, moustached rebel leader. TV images also showed his dog tag and LTTE identity card bearing his number: 0-01.

The images were shown on television just after Pathmanathan came out with a statement: "Our beloved leader is alive and safe. He will continue to lead the quest for dignity and freedom for the Tamil people." The statement was carried by pro-LTTE website TamilNet.com.

The Army Chief went on television thereafter to state categorically: “Reports from the battlefield confirmed this morning that the body of Prabhakaran, this ruthless terrorist leader, has been identified. The fighting was yesterday. He was killed yesterday and the body was identified today.” Defence spokesman Mr Keheliya Rambukwella said: “We will give the body to an undertaker.

“We cannot just throw the body in the jungle. We are civilised country.”

Earlier, President Rajapakse said in a speech in parliament that he was addressing the nation after victory in the war against the LTTE but made no specific mention of Prabhakaran. “Today, we have been able to liberate the whole country from LTTE terrorism,” he said. “We have been able to defeat one of the most heinous terrorist groups in the world.” Mr Rajapakse emphasised he did not believe the war was the final solution to the ethnic conflict and said his task would be to offer a political settlement that would be acceptable to the minority Tamils and all communities. He rejected implementing any solution imposed by another country but vowed to find a “homegrown” solution.

The President stressed that the end of the war against the LTTE was not a defeat of the Tamil community.

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