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Tamil Tiger chief’s parents found

[BBC, Thursday, 28 May 2009 15:11 No Comment]

The parents of the Tamil Tigers’ dead leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, are in a camp for displaced people in the north of Sri Lanka, the army says.

Thiruvenkadam Velupillai and his wife, Parvathi, both in their 70s, were found in the Menik Farm camp near the town of Vavuniya, the army said.

"They are safe and in good health," a spokesman, Brig Udaya Nanayakara, said.

Family friends fear for the couple’s safety, although they say they were not involved in the rebel struggle.

Menik Farm, some 250km (155 miles) north of Colombo, is the biggest camp for those displaced by the war in Sri Lanka, housing about 200,000 people.

‘Reprisal attacks’

Brig Nanayakara said the Prabhakarans were being provided with basic requirements like food and shelter.

"At the same time we are not sure when they came over to government side. Like other internally displaced people they will be in the camp until they are resettled," he said.

"They will not be interrogated."

Friends of the Prabhakarans in the UK confirmed the couple had been traced.

They say that the pair returned to Sri Lanka in 2003 after 10 years in self-imposed exile in the south of India.

"While the government has given assurances that they will not come to harm or be ill treated, we are nevertheless concerned about their safety at the hands of the army," a family acquaintance in London told the BBC News website.

"Tamils all over Sri Lanka have been subjected to – or are in danger of – reprisal attacks following the military victory. There is strong evidence that many of them have been the victims of atrocities and in the current tense climate anything could happed to them."

The army says that Velupillai Prabhakaran’s son, Charles Anthony, was killed earlier this month in fighting in the north. There has been no firm reports as to the fate of the rebel leader’s wife, daughter or other son.

Mr Prabhakaran – who was killed around 18 May – is believed to have had three siblings. One brother is believed to be living in London and a sister lives in Canada. The whereabouts of a third sibling – if he or she exists – is unclear.

Family friends in London say that Mr Prabhakaran’s parents were not closely involved in the struggle for a Tamil state – called Eelam – and knew little of their son’s activities after he took up arms.

"They are a highly principled couple who like many other Tamils are in shock and grieving over the recent bloodshed in Sri Lanka," the family acquaintance said.

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