Sri Lanka Tiger chief’s fate a mystery as rebels routed

May 17, 2009 (AFP) – Scouring a tiny beach and lagoon peninsula in Sri Lanka’s northeast are thousands of government troops, examining the faces of the dead, hunting for hidden bunkers under the jungle floor. They are looking for any sign of the leader of the defeated Tamil Tiger rebels, Velupillai Prabhakaran, who built up what was once the world’s most lethal guerrilla organisation.

And without him in a body bag or behind bars, the island’s bitter ethnic war cannot be considered won.

But there have been no confirmed sightings of the mustachioed, portly warlord for months, even by senior rebel figures or their family members captured by the army in the dying days of the conflict.

“They say he is still there, leading the fight. But we haven’t found anybody, not a single person, who has actually seen him,” a Sri Lankan defence official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

With intelligence so thin, speculation has been rife.

Defence sources say on Friday night, a huge fireball was seen inside the jungle area where the once formidable Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) army has been staging its last stand.

The theory doing the rounds in Colombo’s corridors of power i