Sri Lankan state TV showed grisly pictures Tuesday of what it claimed was the dead body of Velupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of the Tamil Tigers.
Prabhakaran was wearing his signature combat fatigues and a dog tag bearing the serial number "001." His head was partially covered by a cloth but a gaping wound was clearly visible. A laminated Tamil Tiger ID card was also on display.
Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara, a military spokesman, told The Times that the body was recovered and the authorities were "100 percent positive" that it was Prabhakaran.
Troops found Prabhakaran's bullet-ridden body on the bank of the Nanthikadal lagoon, the Ministry of Defense said on its Web site.
Brigadier Nanayakkara said that Prabhakaran, who was the prime architect of a 26-year civil war that claimed more than 70,000 lives, had been shot, probably in fierce fighting Monday morning.
The announcement contradicted previous official claims that Prabhakaran's badly burned body had been discovered Monday.
Military officials had said that Prabhakaran had been killed after he was ambushed by commandos as he made a desperate attempt to break through government lines in an ambulance.
Prabhakaran, who had sworn never to be taken alive, was badly burned when his vehicle burst into flames, officials had said. No pictures were released of his body and DNA tests were ordered to prove his identity.
Brigadier Nanayakkara dismissed claims made by the Tigers' chief of international relations this morning that Prabhakaran was alive and safe and would "continue to lead the quest for dignity and freedom for the Tamil people."
"Our beloved leader is alive and safe. He will continue to lead the quest for dignity and freedom for the Tamil people," the Tigers' chief of international relations, Selvarasa Pathmanathan, said in a statement carried on the pro-rebel Tamilnet Web site.
Pathmanathan gave no indication of the whereabouts of Prabhakaran.
The Tigers' claim came as Mahinda Rajapakse, the Sri Lankan President, announced the "complete defeat" of the rebels and vowed to press ahead with a "homegrown political solution" to end ethnic divisions between the majority Sinhalese population and the minority Tamils.
Addressing Parliament, Rajapakse said that the Government now controlled “every inch” of the island state and had rid the country of terrorism after crushing the rebels on Monday.
"We have demonstrated that we can solve our problems and we will come up with a homegrown political solution," he said.
Sri Lanka would seek international aid to rebuild the devastated former Tiger strongholds in the north and east of the country, he added. He also delivered a rebuke to Britain and U.S., which are resented by some Sri Lankans for calling for a ceasefire just days before the Tigers were defeated.
"What we need from the international community is not advice, but material help to carry out our reconstruction effort," the President said.
Government forces said yesterday that they had found 300 bodies strewn over the 100-square-metre stretch of land where the last Tiger troops had hunkered down. Tamilnet said that the military had carried out a “determined massacre.”
Reporters were not allowed near the conflict zone to witness the aftermath.
In the north of Sri Lanka, fears for the wellbeing of an estimated 300,000 civilians displaced by the conflict escalated after the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross — the only aid organizations allowed to operate in the conflict zone — were denied access to a large number of them on Saturday.