Thiruvenkadam Velupillai Prabhakaran Tamil: வேலுப்பிள்ளை பிரபாகரன்; (November 26, 1954 – May 19, 2009) was the founder and leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (the LTTE or the Tamil Tigers), a militant organization that sought to create an independent Tamil state in the north and east of Sri Lanka.
For over 25 years, the LTTE waged a violent secessionist campaign in Sri Lanka to create an independent state for the Tamil people. Founded in 1976, the LTTE rocketed to prominence in 1983 after they ambushed a patrol of the Sri Lanka Army outside Jaffna, resulting in the deaths of 13 soldiers. This ambush, along with the subsequent rioting which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Tamil civilians, is generally considered the start of the Sri Lankan Civil War. After years of fighting, including the intervention of the Indian Army (IPKF), the conflict was halted after international mediation in 2001. By then, the Tamil Tigers controlled large swathes of land in the north and east of the country, running virtually a mini-state with Prabhakaran serving as its unquestioned leader. Peace talks eventually broke down, and the Sri Lanka Army launched a military campaign to defeat the Tamil Tigers in 2006.
Prabhakaran was reportedly killed in the fighting with the Sri Lankan Army on May 18, 2009. The troops also claimed to have found the body of Charles Anthony, 24, Prabhakaran’s son. His wife’s and daughter’s bodies were reportedly found by the Sri Lankan army but the report was later denied by the Sri Lankan government. It was alleged that his 12-year-old second son was executed a short time later. Prabhakaran’s reported death and the announcement “We have decided to silence our guns. Our only regrets are for the lives lost and that we could not hold out for longer,” by Selvarasa Pathmanathan, the Tigers’ chief of international relations brought an end to the armed conflict.
Velupillai Prabhakaran was born in the northern coastal town of Valvettithurai on November 26, 1954, as the youngest of four children to Thiruvenkadam Velupillai and his wife Vallipuram Parvathy. Thiruvenkadam Velupillai was the District land Officer in the Ceylon Government Angered by what he saw as discrimination against Tamil people by successive Sri Lankan governments, he joined the student group TIP during the standardization debates. In 1972 Prabhakaran founded the Tamil New Tigers (TNT) which was a successor to many earlier organizations that protested against the post-colonial political direction of the country, in which the minority Sri Lankan Tamils were pitted against the majority Sinhalese people.
In 1975, after becoming heavily involved in the Tamil movement, he carried out the first major political assassination by a Tamil group, killing the mayor of Jaffna, Alfred Duraiappah, by shooting him at point-blank range when he was about to enter the Hindu temple at Ponnaalai. The assassination was in response to the 1974 Tamil conference incident, for which the Tamil radicals had blamed Duraiappah, because he backed the then ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party.
Velupillai Prabhakaran has been wanted by Interpol and many other organizations since 1991 for terrorism, murder, organized crime and terrorism conspiracy. He has been issued an arrest warrant by the Madras High Court in India for plotting the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in May, 1991 and in 2002 Judge Ambepitiya issued an open warrant to arrest him in connection with the 1996 Central Bank Bombing.
Prabhakaran was married to Mathivathani Erambu on October 1, 1984. The military spokesman Udaya Nanayakkara stated in May 2009, that there was no information about the whereabouts of the remaining members of the Prabhakaran’s family. “We have not found their bodies and have no information about them,” he said. However, it is thought that the entire Prabhakaran family has been wiped out; the bodies of Madhivadhany, Duvaraga and Balachandran reportedly were found in a bushy patch about 600 meters away from where Prabhakaran’s body was found. It is now believed that his 12-year-old son was executed.
Velupillai Prabhakaran’s parents, Thiruvenkadam Velupillai and Parvathi, both in their 70s, were found in the Menik Farm camp for displaced people near the town of Vavuniya. The Sri Lankan military and the government gave public assurances that they would not be interrogated, harmed or ill-treated. Prabhakaran’s parents were then taken into Sri Lankan military custody until the death of Mr Vellupillai in January 2010. Prabhakaran has a sister named Vinodini Rajendaran.