Death toll in Sri Lanka Easter attacks lowered by more than 100

Death toll in Sri Lanka Easter attacks lowered by more than 100

Kerry Wise
April 26, 2019

The father of two of the suspected Easter suicide bombers was arrested Thursday on suspicion of aiding his sons, Sri Lanka's prime minister said, as businesses and religious leaders anxious about a new attack four days after blasts killed more than 350 people.

Recriminations have flown since Sunday's attacks and the country remained tense with many shops and offices closed and motorists staying off the roads.

Some of the suspects "may go out for a suicide attack", Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said in an interview with The Associated Press. On Thursday, police released the names and photos of three men and three women they want to question. In all, nine people are believed to have blown themselves up on Sunday, either during attacks or when police attempted to arrest them. Wickremesinghe identified him as a wealthy spice trader. The police said that the explosion occurred in a garbage dump and that there were no injuries.

"We believe one of the suicide bombers studied in the United Kingdom and later on did his postgraduate in Australia before coming back to settle in Sri Lanka", he said. He said most were "well-educated and come from middle, upper-middle class families, so they are financially quite independent".

While the full length of Mohamed and Prakash's relationship is still being investigated, one source said there was an "online" link between the pair. But they don't listen. "Before he died he would not let his children listen to music and he never said a friendly word to anyone". He said his entire house shook when the bomb went off. He described him as a leading businessman active in politics known as "Ibrahim Hajiar", a Sri Lankan term for Muslims who have gone on religious pilgrimages to Mecca.

Sri Lanka's tourism industry, which accounts for around five per cent of the country's GDP, is likely to suffer due to the Easter blasts. They may be having explosives with them, or they may have hidden the explosives so we have to find the suspects as well as the explosives.

Authorities have accused the little-known National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) of carrying out the devastating blasts that tore through three Catholic churches and three luxury hotels on the Easter Sunday, killing over 350 people, including 11 Indians and injuring almost 500 others.

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The mortal remains of 13 foreign nationals have been repatriated to date, the statement said. Fourteen foreigners are unaccounted for, and 12 were still being treated for injuries in Colombo hospitals. The president also holds the defense portfolio. "That individual had been here on a student and a graduate skilled visa".

"Police and security forces are rounding up those involved, but they're also rounding up the sleepers, those used on second and third rounds (of attacks)", he said.

Security has intensified around mosques across in the country ahead of Friday prayers, with members of Sri Lanka's Muslim minority fearing a possible backlash to the attacks.

The road to the national airport, about 20 miles from the capital, was briefly blocked while security squads searched a suspicious vehicle, and aviation officials said they were banning the use of drones, which have been used by some militant groups to carry explosives.

Yesterday, junior defence minister Ruwan Wijewardene said the attackers had broken away from National Towheed Jamaat and another group, which he identified only as "JMI".

The downward revision means the attack is no longer the deadliest ever claimed by Islamic State.