Sri Lanka says Easter attack leader died in hotel bombing

8 months 4 weeks 3 hours ago Friday, April 26 2019 Apr 26, 2019 Friday, April 26, 2019 5:16:00 AM CDT April 26, 2019 in News
By: The Associated Press

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lankan authorities said a suspected militant group leader who carried out a series of Easter Sunday bombings died in the blast at the Shangri-La Hotel, one of six hotels and churches targeted in the attacks that killed at least 250 people, officials said Friday.

Police said on an official Twitter account that Mohamed Zahran, the leader of local militant group National Towheed Jamaat, known for his vitriolic extremist speeches on social media, had been killed in one of the nine suicide bombings.

Police also said they had arrested the group’s second-in-command.

They said investigators had determined that the assailants’ military training was provided by someone they called “Army Mohideen,” and that weapons training had taken place overseas and at some locations in Sri Lanka’s eastern province.

Police also said that the attackers had worked out at a local gym and by playing soccer using their authentic national identity cards. They added that the vehicles used in the attack were purchased from a car dealership in Kadawatha, a suburb of Colombo, the capital.

They said that the operator of a copper factory who was arrested in connection with the bombings had helped Mohideen make improvised explosive devices and purchase empty cartridges sold by the Sri Lankan military as scrap copper.

Australia’s prime minister said earlier Friday that it had been confirmed that the Sri Lanka attackers were supported by the Islamic State group, which has claimed responsibility for the massacre, distributing video of Zahran and others pledging allegiance to the withered caliphate.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena told reporters in Colombo that some 140 people in the island nation had been identified as having links to the Islamic State group, and that the Sri Lankan government has “the capability “to completely control ISIS activities” in the country.

“We will completely control this and create a free and peaceful environment for people to live,” he said.

Sirisena blamed Sri Lanka’s defense secretary, who resigned Thursday, and police chief, who he said would soon step down, for a failure to share weeks of information from international intelligence agencies about the plot ahead of time.

Across Colombo, there was a visible increase of security as authorities warned of another attack and pursued suspects that could have access to explosives. Authorities had told Muslims to pray at home rather than attend communal Friday prayers that are the most important religious service for the faithful. At one mosque in Colombo where prayers were still held, police armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles stood guard outside.

Armed soldiers also stood guard outside St. Anthony’s Shrine, one of the three churches attacked on Easter.

Gration Fernando crossed himself when he looked at the church after walking out of his shop there. Fernando says he, like other Sri Lankans, was worried about further attacks.

There is “no security, no safety to go to church,” he said, adding that “now children are scared to go to church.” 

Late on Thursday, Sri Lanka’s health ministry drastically revised down its estimated death toll from the coordinated attacks. A statement said “approximately” 253 people had died, nearly one-third lower than the police’s estimated death toll of 359.

The discrepancy was not immediately explained, but it fit a pattern of claims and counterclaims by Sri Lankan officials that have muddled the investigation.

In a predominantly Muslim area of Colombo’s Maligawatta neighborhood, vegetable sellers laid their produce on the sidewalks near the mosques as women in long black chador shopped.

Leaders at the neighborhood mosques said they planned still to hold Friday noon prayers. They said both the police and volunteers would be guarding the neighborhood to protect the faithful.

Imtiyas Ahamed, one prayer leader, said he planned to preach about how extremists like the Islamic State group were not faithful Muslims.

“In Islam, it is not said to kill yourself and kill others,” Ahamed said.

As he spoke, men one at a time came into the mosque to pray. They sat on their knees and bowed toward Mecca, the sweat from their brows falling on the mosque’s purple-and-gray carpet.

Abdullah Mohammed, 48, another Muslim from the neighborhood, stood outside.

“Everyone is nervous,” Mohammed said. “Not just the Muslims. Buddhists, Christians, Hindus — everybody’s nervous.”

Ahamed also urged people not to think all of Sri Lanka’s Muslims were like the people who carried out Sunday’s attacks.

“After the New Zealand attack, we don’t think every white Australian is an extremist,” he said.

More News

Grid
List
COLUMBIA - New Fire Chief Andy Woody always knew he wanted to be a firefighter because he grew up around... More >>
1 day ago Tuesday, January 21 2020 Jan 21, 2020 Tuesday, January 21, 2020 4:42:00 PM CST January 21, 2020 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Tuesday marks what Jay Minor is hoping will be the first day of his last legislative session.... More >>
1 day ago Tuesday, January 21 2020 Jan 21, 2020 Tuesday, January 21, 2020 3:29:00 PM CST January 21, 2020 in Continuous News
BOONVILLE - Kelsey Breshears only worked at Pinnacle Hospital for a year, and now she's on the hunt for a... More >>
1 day ago Tuesday, January 21 2020 Jan 21, 2020 Tuesday, January 21, 2020 3:11:00 PM CST January 21, 2020 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Bobby Bostic wasn't supposed to see freedom after his prison conviction at age 16 - his sentence... More >>
1 day ago Tuesday, January 21 2020 Jan 21, 2020 Tuesday, January 21, 2020 2:31:00 PM CST January 21, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - The man accused of opening fire inside of Walmart on West Broadway on Friday night threatened to kill... More >>
1 day ago Tuesday, January 21 2020 Jan 21, 2020 Tuesday, January 21, 2020 2:19:00 PM CST January 21, 2020 in News
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A gunman who opened fire outside of a Kansas City nightclub, killing a woman and... More >>
1 day ago Tuesday, January 21 2020 Jan 21, 2020 Tuesday, January 21, 2020 1:10:00 PM CST January 21, 2020 in News
ROCHEPORT - Twenty vehicles crashed on Monday at the I-70 Missouri River Bridge near Rocheport. The Missouri State Highway... More >>
1 day ago Tuesday, January 21 2020 Jan 21, 2020 Tuesday, January 21, 2020 12:45:00 PM CST January 21, 2020 in News
(RENTON, Wash.) - The Boeing 737 Max is officially on hold. The assembly line in Renton, Washington, has stopped... More >>
1 day ago Tuesday, January 21 2020 Jan 21, 2020 Tuesday, January 21, 2020 9:39:00 AM CST January 21, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - Former Pinnacle Hospital employees have the opportunity to find a new job at the job fair hosted by... More >>
1 day ago Tuesday, January 21 2020 Jan 21, 2020 Tuesday, January 21, 2020 3:38:00 AM CST January 21, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - Missouri School of Journalism Professor Emeritus Rod Gelatt died Sunday January 19, at his home in Arizona. He... More >>
2 days ago Monday, January 20 2020 Jan 20, 2020 Monday, January 20, 2020 6:14:00 PM CST January 20, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - The Kansas City Chiefs' AFC Championship victory brought celebration and excitement to fans in Columbia yesterday. Teller's Gallery... More >>
2 days ago Monday, January 20 2020 Jan 20, 2020 Monday, January 20, 2020 2:59:00 PM CST January 20, 2020 in News
ROCHEPORT — As of 3:45 p.m., the westbound lane of I-70 at the Missouri River bridge is now open, according... More >>
2 days ago Monday, January 20 2020 Jan 20, 2020 Monday, January 20, 2020 2:29:00 PM CST January 20, 2020 in News
PULASKI COUNTY - Deputies with the Pulaski County Sheriff's Department rescued a female driver from her car stuck in a... More >>
2 days ago Monday, January 20 2020 Jan 20, 2020 Monday, January 20, 2020 2:08:00 PM CST January 20, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - The snow and bitter cold did not stop the NAACP's Columbia chapter from remembering Martin Luther King, Jr.... More >>
2 days ago Monday, January 20 2020 Jan 20, 2020 Monday, January 20, 2020 12:15:00 PM CST January 20, 2020 in News
KANSAS CITY - Police say an armed security guard may have shot and killed a man suspected of fatally shooting... More >>
2 days ago Monday, January 20 2020 Jan 20, 2020 Monday, January 20, 2020 8:46:00 AM CST January 20, 2020 in News
FULTON - Maurice Alfred, 33, was arrested by the Fulton Police Department on Sunday and charged with burglary, domestic assault,... More >>
2 days ago Monday, January 20 2020 Jan 20, 2020 Monday, January 20, 2020 8:13:00 AM CST January 20, 2020 in News
HOLDEN— Law enforcement officers in Holden, Missouri have taken a man into custody after a homicide Saturday, according to a... More >>
3 days ago Sunday, January 19 2020 Jan 19, 2020 Sunday, January 19, 2020 5:59:00 PM CST January 19, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - After hosting several events Monday to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, the... More >>
3 days ago Sunday, January 19 2020 Jan 19, 2020 Sunday, January 19, 2020 4:02:00 PM CST January 19, 2020 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 32°
8pm 32°
9pm 33°
10pm 34°
11pm 34°