Prabhakaran pays homage to rebel commander

May 22nd, 2008 - 1:39 pm ICT by admin  

By P. Karunakharan
Colombo, May 22 (IANS) The elusive leader of the Tamil Tigers, Velupillai Prabhakaran, has paid homage to his top military commander who died of heart attack in the rebel-held Wanni region, it was announced Thursday. Balasegaram Kandiah alias ‘Brigadier’ Balraj, involved in planning and carrying out several operations against the Sri Lankan military over the past 20 years, died Tuesday following cardiac arrest at the age of 42.

“Prabhakaran paid his last respect to ‘Brigadier’ Balraj by garlanding his remains Wednesday,” reported, a website close to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

It said that other LTTE leaders, including its intelligence wing chief Pottu Amman and Sea Tigers wing head Soosai, accompanied Prabhakaran and garlanded the remains of Balraj at an unknown location in the Wanni.

The LTTE peace secretariat website released photographs of the rebel chief, flanked by his military wing leaders, garlanding the remains of Balraj “at a specially arranged location in Wanni”.

The LTTE leadership has announced a three-day mourning for Balraj ending Friday.

Balraj’s death has come amid fierce fighting between the advancing government troops and the Tigers in the island’s north over the past one year, leaving over 4,000 people dead.

On Wednesday, at least 17 LTTE cadres and two government soldiers were killed in sporadic clashes between the two sides in the northeast, the defence ministry said.

Balraj, who hailed from Mullaitivu district, is the second LTTE leader to be posthumously conferred by the rebel leadership the rank of brigadier. The first was its political wing head S.P. Thamilselvan, who was killed in a Sri Lanka Air Force raid in November last year.

According to pro-rebel websites, Balraj was the first commander of the LTTE’s conventional fighting formation, Charles Antony Brigade, which was established in 1991.

He served “as a key commander in LTTE’s major operations, including the LTTE’s overrunning of the military garrison (at the) Elephant Pass in 2000″. The Elephant Pass is a narrow isthmus that joins Jaffna peninsula with the Sri Lankan mainland.

“(Balraj) was an expert in different forms of warfare, including psychological operations, and deployed different tactics during the planning and the conduct of the operations,” the pro-LTTE reported.

Following the Norway-sponsored February 2002 ceasefire agreement, Balraj had a heart surgery in Singapore in 2003 with the permission of the Sri Lankan government.

It also said that Balraj had been hospitalised for three months earlier this year “but had engaged himself in (the) war front in between his medical treatments”.

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