Page last updated at 08:25 GMT, Monday, 18 May 2009 09:25 UK

Sri Lanka rebel head 'surrounded'

Sri Lankan troops
Sri Lanka's army has been releasing images of its troops on the coast in the north-eastern war zone

The leader of the Tamil Tiger rebels, Velupillai Prabhakaran, is surrounded by government troops in a tiny patch of jungle, Sri Lanka's military has said.

Unconfirmed reports on Western news agencies quoted unnamed defence officials as saying he had been killed.

Prabhakaran was being guarded by about 200 rebels, a military spokesman said on television.

Sri Lankan forces have routed the rebels in the past few weeks, bringing a 26-year war to its conclusion.

Earlier, three senior rebel leaders were killed in the fighting, the army said.

Initial reports had put the number at four, saying 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 army also said it had found the body of Prabhakaran's eldest son, Charles Anthony.

The news agencies said Prabhakaran himself was ambushed and shot dead while trying to flee the area in an ambulance.

The latest claims cannot be verified as reporters are barred from the war zone.

'No escape'

Sri Lanka's army says the last Tamil Tiger (LTTE) fighters have been penned into a 1.5 square kilometre (0.6 sq mile) patch of jungle.

Tamil Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran
Born November, 1954
1972: Founded Tamil New Tigers (TNT), forerunner of LTTE
Wanted in Sri Lanka and India

The military spokesman said he could not predict exactly what would happen next but added: "We won't allow him [Prabhakaran] to escape."

The television also showed what it said were Tamil Tiger (LTTE) ammunition dumps and heavy weapons burning after the rebels set fire to them.

As the offensive continued, more than 1,000 Sri Lankans protested outside the British High Commission in the capital, Colombo.

The demonstrators, accusing Britain of siding with the Tigers, threw stones and burnt an effigy of UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

A High Commission spokesman said it was "an outrage" that the Sri Lankan authorities let the demonstration become so violent.

'Bitter end'

The latest developments came a day after the rebels declared a ceasefire, saying the battle had "reached its bitter end".

Selvarasa Pathmanathan, the Tigers' chief of international relations, said in a statement on the pro-rebel TamilNet website that the LTTE was "prepared to silence its guns if that is what needed by the international community to save the life and dignity of the Tamil people".

The government has consistently refused to call a halt to the fighting, vowing to wipe the rebels out.

Sources in the UN say significant numbers of civilians are still in the combat zone but the Sri Lankan government says all civilians have left.

The Tigers have been fighting for a separate state for Tamils in the north and east of Sri Lanka since the 1970s.

More than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict and thousands displaced.


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Manorama Online Prabhakaran alive, claims TamilNet - 1 hr ago
Asia News Network COLOMBO: LTTE's terror reign over in Sri Lanka, leader dead - 2 hrs ago
Asiaone The end for Sri Lanka's Tigers - 4 hrs ago
The Independent Tamil leaders 'killed as they tried to surrender' - 7 hrs ago
Mid Day Prabhakaran shot dead: SL army - 7 hrs ago

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