TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) - Security was tight in the north of the island, home to Sri Lanka's minority Tamils, ahead of solemn ceremonies on Saturday.
Sri Lanka's government and top military brass were due to hold their own commemoration in Colombo on Sunday.
On May 18, 2009 government forces brought their no-holds-barred military offensive to an end at a lagoon in the northern coastal district of Mullaittivu with the killing of Velupillai Prabhakaran, leader of the rebel Tamil Tigers.
Sri Lanka's then-president Mahinda Rajapakse declared an end to the 37-year separatist conflict -- marked by massacres, suicide bombings and assassinations -- between Tamil militants and the central government, which is dominated by the majority Sinhalese.
But for thousands of war widows and other victims on both sides, this marked the start of a new struggle: to find out the fate of their loved ones.
About 20,000 people are still missing, including 5,000 government troops.
Anandarasan Nagakanni, 61, is still searching for her son Arindavadas.
"He was last seen with the Sri Lankan army, and after that we haven't seen him," she told AFP at a tiny makeshift office in Mullaittivu, where a notice board was covered with dozens of photos of missing people.
Nagaraja Sureshamma, 65, who lost one son and is still looking for the other, recalled the horrors of the final months and how civilians scrambled to escape indiscriminate attacks and shelling.
"We were all going together, but my son happened to go on a different route... Ever since, we have not been able to find him," Sureshamma said.
"If they are not alive, then they need to tell us that at least," said Mariasuresh Easwari, an activist trying to help find the missing.
"Did you murder them? Did you bury them? Tell us."