Asia

Sri Lanka reopens site of Velupillai Prabhakaran death

This undated handout picture released by The Liberation Tigers for Tamil Eelam (LTTE), LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran poses at an undisclosed location in Sri Lanka.
Image caption There are conflicting accounts of exactly how the rebel leader met his death

The lagoon where Tamil Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran died in the final stages of Sri Lanka's civil war has been reopened, the army says.

Army officials say the Nanthikadal lagoon is now open for fishing, but a Tamil political party disputed the government's claim.

Sri Lankan forces defeated separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in May 2009 after 26 years of civil war.

Rights groups have accused the army and rebels of abuses at the end of the war.

The government has rejected such claims, but there have been conflicting accounts about the death of the feared and reclusive Tamil Tiger leader.

The army said he was killed in battle but human rights groups said he might have been killed after surrendering. It was by the Nanthikadal lagoon that the army put his body on display.

The lagoon gained a sort of gruesome notoriety, the BBC's Charles Haviland in Colombo reports, as it was between this body of water and the sea that hundreds of thousands of civilians were trapped for months.

Many suffered death or grievous injury as the army attacked the Tigers who used violence to prevent people leaving, our correspondent says.

Mass graves claim

The military now says it has cleared landmines from the land giving access to the lagoon and that local people can once more go fishing there.

But a parliamentarian from the biggest Tamil party, which was once close to the Tigers, told the BBC he had been to the lagoon and that no-one was being allowed to fish. He said that he believed the announcement was a publicity stunt.

Reports from the north say a system of tokens is in place to regulate the fishing.

Whatever the state of mine clearance, no-one has been allowed to resettle in the villages between the lagoon and the sea which caught the brunt of the violence, our correspondent says.

The army says more demining is necessary but Tamil politicians say the area contains mass graves.

The US has tabled a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council, currently meeting in Geneva, calling on Sri Lanka to implement recommendations of an internal inquiry into the conduct of the civil war.

Sri Lankan officials say they are confident of defeating the resolution at the Geneva sessions.