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Senior military officials said Prabhakaran was surrounded early yesterday with the last of his fighters in a 300m sq patch of jungle, north of the town of Mullaittivu.
It was believed he had given instructions for his bodyguards to kill him, or he would break the cyanide capsule all Tigers carry around their necks and commit suicide, rather than be captured.
We all must now live as equals in this free country,' he said.
President Rajapaksa has said in the past that he would negotiate some form of power-sharing with the Tamil community following the war and he alluded today to the need for an agreement.
The United Nations said yesterday it believed 265,000 people have been displaced by the conflict.
Aid workers prevented from reaching the fleeing masses have expressed concern at their treatment.
The European Union has called for an independent investigation into the killing of civilians, amid reports that 7,000 may have died in the final months of the military offensive as Sri Lanka's army pushed the rebels into a tiny enclave in the North-East of the island.
Mr Miliband said yesterday there have been 'very grave allegations' of war crimes on both sides and 'they should be investigated'.
But he and his deputies are said to have made a final desperate bid for freedom.