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Tamil Tigers Confirm Leader's Death


Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels have acknowledged for the first time that their supreme leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, was killed in the group's final battle against government troops.

The rebels' chief of international relations, Selvarasa Pathmanathan, said Sunday that Prabhakaran "attained martyrdom fighting the Sri Lankan government." He said the rebel group had declared a week of mourning to mark Prabhakaran's death.

Sri Lanka's army identified Prabhakaran's body after the final offensive against the rebels last Tuesday.

The Tigers' admission came as the United Nations chief, Ban Ki-moon, visited the island nation and toured the largest camp housing about two-thirds of the 300,000 people displaced by the war.

Mr. Ban urged the Sri Lankan government to give aid agencies unrestricted access to camps holding the internally displaced.

But the Colombo government made it clear Sunday that aid workers will not be allowed complete access until rebels hiding among the refugees are weeded out.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa said that as conditions improve, especially security, "there would be no objections to such assistance."

The U.N. chief vowed to work hard to ensure that refugees are resettled by the end of the year, as promised by the government. But he also warned that unless Sri Lanka's government can reconcile with the country's Tamil minority, "history could repeat itself."

U.N. officials estimate that more 7,000 civilians were killed and many more wounded during the final months of the war.

Tamil rebels began their fight for a separate homeland for the ethnic Tamil minority in 1983. The U.N. estimates that the civil war resulted in up to 100,000 deaths.

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