Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa says his country has been "liberated" from terrorism after 26 years of civil war.

Mr. Rajapaksa addressed the nation from parliament Tuesday.

On Monday, Sri Lanka's army chief, Lieutenant-General Sarath Fonseka, declared an end to the country's conflict with Tamil Tiger rebels, putting the entire nation under government control for the first time since 1983.

Sri Lankan state television said the leadership of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam has been decimated and the group's founder and leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, was killed.

The rebels insisted early Tuesday in a statement carried on the pro-rebel Tamilnet Web site that Prabhakaran was still alive.

But a source in President Rajapaksa's office, speaking to VOA earlier on condition of anonymity, said a formal announcement will come after positive identification of the body is made.

The military also said it recovered the bodies of other top-ranked Tamil Tiger rebels, including Prabhakaran's son Charles Anthony.

A U.S. State Department spokesman Monday welcomed the reported end of hostilities and appealed for political reconciliation and help for tens of thousands of people displaced by the final weeks of combat.

The United Nations estimates up to 300,000 people have been displaced, and about 6,500 civilians have died in the fighting since January.

The U.N. has called for an investigation into possible war crimes committed by both the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers.

The European Union also called Monday for the Sri Lankan government to allow the U.N. full access to the conflict zone.

Since the Tamil rebels began their fight for a separate homeland for the ethnic Tamil minority, tens of thousands of people have died in the conflict.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.