Sri Lankan state television broadcast video footage Tuesday of what it said was the body of Tamil Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, hours after the rebels claimed he was still alive.
The footage showed the upper part of a corpse dressed in camouflage uniform and with a head wound. The face was intact, with the eyes wide open, and bore a clear resemblance to the rebel leader.
Part of the forehead was covered by a blue cloth, and the head was resting on a bloodstained newspaper.
The images also showed Prabhakaran's dog tag with the marking '0.01' and his Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) identity card.
The broadcast came after the country's army chief, General Sarath Fonseka, announced he was "very pleased to confirm that we have killed Prabhakaran, the ruthless terrorist leader."
|A Sri Lankan newspaper vendor displays newspapers announcing the death of Tamil Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran|
Fonseka said the body had been positively identified earlier Tuesday as of Prabhakaran, who was reported by the army to have been killed on Monday while trying to flee.
In a statement carried by the pre-separatist website Tamilnet, the Tiger official accused the Sri Lankan government of fabricating news of his death in order "to gloat" over its rout of the rebel army.
"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.
The Sri Lankan military said Monday that Prabhakaran, founder and leader of the LTTE, had been shot dead with two of his top commanders as they attempted to flee advancing troops in an ambulance.
"We categorically reject this," Pathmanathan said, without making any claim to Prabhakaran's current whereabouts.
"The Tamil freedom struggle is a just cause and will not be quashed by the events of the last 24 hours. Truth and justice will always prevail," he added.
Pathmanathan, believed to be living in hiding in Southeast Asia, went on to accuse the Sri Lankan government and military of "crimes against humanity," saying senior LTTE leaders had been shot dead after being invited to negotiate their surrender.
He said B. Nadesan, the LTTE's political wing leader, and S. Pulideevan, the head of the rebels' defunct Peace Secretariat, were shot while holding a white flag.
"We were informed by some member states of the international community that arrangements had been made with the Sri Lankan military for discussions on an orderly end to the war," Pathmanathan said.
In the hours before his death was announced by the government, Pulideevan was said to have been making frantic calls on a satellite telephone, asking the Red Cross, United Nations and former peace broker Norway to assist with a surrender.
"We were instructed to make contact with the 58th Division of the Sri Lankan forces in the war zone, unarmed and carrying white flags. Head of our Political Wing, Mr. B. Nadesan and Mr. Puleedevan then proceeded to do so," Pathmanathan said in the statement.
"They were unarmed and carrying white flags and were called on by the officers of the 58th Division to come forward for discussions. When they complied they were both shot and killed," the statement said.