Colombo: LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran's death, bringing down the curtains on his 25-year-old armed struggle for a separate Tamil state, sparked off celebrations in the island nation Monday.
People poured out into the streets in many towns, setting off firecrackers, waving the national flag and distributing milk rice to mark the military victory.
In Colombo, soon after the announcement of the LTTE leader's death, people were seen setting off firecrackers at street junctions, holding up traffic briefly while youth were seen shaking hands with soldiers on duty at sentry points, DPA reported.
Prabhakaran was killed while trying to escape the battle zone in the island's north along with two of his top aides.
Prabhakaran, 54, was in a convoy of a van and an ambulance with Pottu Amman, head of the intelligence wing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and Sea Tigers chief Soosai when the military opened fire in an isolated strip of Mullaitivu district.
Prabhakaran's death comes shortly after soldiers stumbled upon the bodies of several key LTTE leaders, including his son Charles Anthony, who headed the group's IT wing and was being groomed to take over his father's mantle.
Chandima Perera, a bank executive, told Daily News in Pannipitiya area here that it was a very happy day.
"We were living in fear for decades. We went to work or sent our children to school with fear, not knowing whether we could return home safely. Now that the armed forces had defeated the terrorists, the funds spent on the war could be diverted to the economic development and social welfare of the country."
Pumika Sumathipala, a physician in a children's hospital, said: "Though the war against the terrorists was over now the real war begins with the resettlement of such a large number of people who had lost their property and belongings. The resettlement of civilians who had suffered immensely in the past should be given high priority to ensure that terrorism would not raise its ugly head again."
The government asked the people to hoist the national flag Monday, "as a mark of victory achieved by security forces in defeating terrorism and as a tribute to heroic soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the nation".