New Zimbabwe.com

Sri Lanka attacks: Relatives of key suspect killed

BBC


The father and two brothers of the alleged organiser of the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka, Zahran Hashim, were killed in a security forces operation on Friday, police say.

Hashim, who blew himself up at a hotel in the capital Colombo, founded an Islamist group, the NTJ, which has now been banned.

Police have raided the group’s HQ in the eastern town of Kattankudy.

The attacks targeted churches and hotels, killing at least 250 people.

Sunday church services are cancelled across the country as a precaution.

However, worshippers in the capital gathered to pray outside St Anthony’s, which was badly damaged in the attacks.

The country’s president and prime minister attended a televised Christian ceremony.

When I entered the house where the Islamists and their families were killed on Friday evening, the smell of death was unbearable.

A close relative of the radical preacher Zahran Hashim’s family confirmed to me that the father and two brothers of Hashim were the individuals who appeared in a video just before they killed themselves. A police officer at the site also said Zahran Hashim’s mother was also believed to be among the victims.

Security forces have been conducting raids across the country but this safe house was discovered by chance, when the suspicious house owner and local people alerted the police.

Every day, police are making arrests, seizing weapons, explosives and jihadist material suggesting the radicalisation process, however small it may be, has been happening over a period of time. If the security agencies had missed this, then it is a colossal failure.

The ongoing raids and discovery of weapons and material are gradually building up tensions among the communities. A hotel owner said she was worried because she was a Catholic. Muslims say they are nervous to visit Sinhala-majority areas. Some foreign governments have warned that there is a possibility of further attacks and if those happen, fragile ethnic relations could be further strained.