International

Sri Lankan troops close in on Easter blasts suspects

The father and two brothers of Zahran Hashim, who is believed to have led the Easter attacks in Sri Lanka, were killed in Friday’s overnight gun battle between troops and suspects in the eastern Ampara district, the police said on Sunday.

Hashim was earlier identified as one of the two suicide bombers who blew themselves up at Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo.

Wife, daughter rescued

Further, a woman and a four-year-old child, rescued from a safe house stormed in the search operation on Saturday, have been identified as the wife and daughter of Hashim, police sources told The Hindu.

As security forces close in on the remaining suspects linked to the Easter serial blasts, which killed over 250 people, including 45 children, last Sunday, the police have detained 100 people so far. Authorities have said local radical Islamist forces, including the Hashim-led National Thowheed Jamaath, were behind the killings.

The IS, too, claimed the attacks on Tuesday, sparking questions about the outfit’s possible presence in the island. In a statement on Sunday, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said most of the terrorists with an alleged role in the suicide bombings were killed or arrested, and the country is ready to return to normalcy.

A number of potential suicide bombers had triggered explosions when they were confronted by security forces on Friday night, he confirmed.

Raiding likely safe houses in the east late Friday, troops found at least 15 bodies, including those of six children and three women, due to an explosion, that officials said, three suspects had triggered.

Three other men died in the preceding gunfire exchange with troops, during the search operation that went on till dawn on Saturday. Explosive material and ISIS flags were also recovered.

Sri Lanka is mulling stringent laws to tackle the relatively new, unexpected threat of local radical Islamist forces with apparent links with international groups.

“Terrorism should be ended immediately. For that we will bring new and tougher laws,” Mr. Wickremesinghe said.

Covering of the face banned

Meanwhile, a statement from the President’s Media Division said covering of the face with veils, in a manner that prevents identification of a person, will be banned from Monday under emergency regulations.

The island remains on high alert since the attacks on Easter Sunday, with the military deploying nearly 10,000 soldiers across provinces. Schools, universities and several commercial establishments are closed.

Source: thehindu.com

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