Sri Lanka bombings ringleader died in hotel attack

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The alleged ringleader behind Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday bombings was killed in the attacks, President Maithripala Sirisena said.

Sirisena said Zahran Hashim, a radical preacher, died at the Shangri-La hotel in the capital, Colombo.

He said Hashim led the attack on the popular tourist hotel, accompanied by a second bomber identified as “Ilham”. At least 250 people died in the wave of bombings on Sunday, which targeted churches and hotels in Colombo.

Zahran Hashim

Sirisena also said that Sri Lankan intelligence services believed around 130 suspects linked to Islamic State (IS) group were in the country and that police were hunting 70 who were still at large.

The president did not clarify what role Hashim took in the Shangri-La bombing – one of six attacks on Sunday that terrorised Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan authorities have blamed a local Islamist extremist group, National Tawheed Jamath, for the attacks.

A previously little-known domestic radical, Hashim gained some local notoriety a few years ago as part of a group which defaced Buddhist statues. He subsequently found a following on YouTube, where he posted videos calling for violence against non-Muslims.

In the days after the Easter Sunday attacks, he appeared in a video released by IS in which seven men – thought to be some of the bombers – pledged allegiance to the group. Hashim was the only one to show his face.

The alleged ringleader behind Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday bombings

But it was not clear whether Hashim had been in direct contact with IS or if he had simply pledged allegiance to the group, which has claimed it was behind the attacks.

Hashim was from the coastal Sri Lankan town of Kattankudy. There, earlier this week, his sister told the BBC she was horrified by what her brother had done. (BBC)

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