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Who were the Sri Lanka attackers?

BBC News logo BBC News 26-04-2019
© Reuters

Sri Lanka is in the midst of a massive investigation by security forces following the Easter Sunday bombings that left 359 people dead.

Now, as police carry out search operations and make further arrests, a picture is beginning to emerge of the individuals behind it.

Eight of the nine bombers have been identified. All are believed to have been home-grown, one was a woman and most came from "middle or upper middle class" families,

There is also evidence that the group had international support. The government is investigating whether the Islamic State (IS) group was involved.

As the sweeping investigation continues, here is what we know about the suspects.

Spice trader's sons

Two of the bombers were the sons of a wealthy and well-known spice trader, Mohammad Yusuf Ibrahim, who is based in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, police sources have told the BBC.

One of them detonated his explosives at the city's Shangri-La hotel while breakfast was being served. The other targeted the restaurant at the high-end Cinnamon Grand hotel which is a short distance away.

Their father has been arrested and is now in custody.

His daughter-in-law detonated explosives during a police raid at the family's villa on Sunday, apparently to avoid arrest.

Several people, including children and police officers, were reportedly killed in that blast.

a fire truck parked in front of a building: Staff members and tourists were killed at the Shangri-La hotel © Getty Images Staff members and tourists were killed at the Shangri-La hotel

The family's wealthy background matches the description of the attackers given by the authorities.

"They are financially quite independent and their families are quite stable financially," Deputy Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Former student

One of the attackers studied in the UK, officials say.

Abdul Latif Jamil Mohammed visited south-east England in 2006-7 to study but did not complete a full university degree, a senior Whitehall official told the BBC.

He reportedly studied aerospace engineering at Kingston University.

He later studied in Australia before returning to Sri Lanka.

"I can confirm the suicide bomber had been in Australia," the country's prime minister, Scott Morrison, said on Thursday. "They departed in early 2013."

He added: "They had a spouse and child visa at that time as well but they had not returned to the country."

Suspected ringleader

Islamist preacher Zahran Hashim is suspected of being the bombers' ringleader. Police do not know whether he detonated one of the suicide bombs or is still at large.

An IS video that was released after the group said it had carried out the attacks appears to feature him prominently.

In the video, he can reportedly be seen pledging allegiance to the group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Zahran Hashim was not widely known in Sri Lanka until this week © BBC Zahran Hashim was not widely known in Sri Lanka until this week

The UK government believes it is highly likely IS were linked to the bombings although the full extent of the group's role is not clear, officials have told the BBC.

Sri Lanka's Muslim community have said they warned the authorities about Mr Hashim for years prior to the attacks.

"This person was a loner and he had radicalised young people," Hilmy Ahamed, vice-president of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, told AFP news agency,

"Nobody thought these people were capable of carrying out an attack of such magnitude," he added.

Mr Hashim's sister told the BBC: "I came to know about his actions only through the media. Even for a moment, I never thought that he would do such a thing.

"I strongly deplore what he has done. Even if he is my brother, I cannot accept this. I'm not worried about him anymore."

Also watch: Scenes from the Sri Lanka Easter Sunday explosions

(Slideshow provided by USA Today)

Also watch: First look inside Sri Lanka church since bombing

Replay Video
(Video provided by Associated Press)

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