Tigers admit leader dead; UN presses Sri Lanka over access

May 24, 2009 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers on Sunday admitted for the first time that their leader was killed by government forces a week ago as the UN demanded better access for civilians displaced in recent fighting. Almost a week after the government said its troops had killed Velupillai Prabhakaran, 54, in an ambush, the Tigers’ chief of international relations, Selvarasa Pathmanathan, acknowledged that the rebel leader was dead.

“We announce today with inexpressible sadness and heavy hearts that our incomparable leader, the supreme commander of the LTTE, attained martyrdom fighting the Sri Lankan government,” Pathmanathan said in a statement.

He seemed to suggest that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) would try to continue their campaign, saying that Prabhakaran’s “final request was for the struggle to continue until we achieved the freedom for his people.”

The government, however, has said that the rebels’ entire leadership has been wiped out and claimed victory in a decades-long war against the Tigers.

Pathmanathan had on Tuesday told the pro-rebel website Tamilnet that Prabhakaran, the founder and leader of the was “safe and well,” prompting the government to broadcast footage of th