Jihadists suspected to have links to the Easter attacks opened fire and finally blew themselves up late Friday night during a raid by Sri Lankan security forces in Kalmunai in the country’s east, leading to the death of 15 people. Three men set off explosives killing themselves, three women and six children in a house serving as a terrorist hideout.
Three other men, also believed to be suicide bombers, were found dead outside. The raid in the predominantly Muslim town is part of a continuing hunt for the accomplices of the Easter suicide bombers, in which around 100 suspects have so far been arrested. Meanwhile, Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena used his emergency powers to ban local Islamist outfits National Thowheed Jamath and a splinter group, Jamathei Millathu Ibraheem, for their role in last Sunday’s attack.
A girl and a woman, who survived the massive explosion after the hour-long gun battle in Kalmunai, are critical and being treated at a hospital, police said. According to Reuters, they are the wife and daughter of jihadist Zahran Hashim, the suspected mastermind of the April 21 Lanka terror attacks in which over 250 died after churches and high-end hotels were targeted by suicide bombers.
In a video circulated on pro-Islamic State social media groups, three alleged suicide bombers at the Kalmunai raid site are seen proclaiming allegiance to the terror group. “Kuffar (infidel) dogs have neared us,” one of them says and adds, “We will teach Christians and non-believers a lesson and spill their blood all over Lanka.” Children can be seen in the video, with a kid crying in the background.
India had given specific alerts to Lanka about the possibility of suicide attacks, weeks before the Easter massacre. The warnings were based on videos and other Islamic State-influenced material that were seized during raids in Tamil Nadu.
India warns against trips to SL
As security forces hunt suspects linked to the Easter attacks, India and the US warned their citizens Saturday not to undertake non-essential travel to Sri Lanka. Those undertaking emergency travel can contact Indian missions in Colombo, Kandy and Jaffna for assistance, the MEA said. The UK, Australia and Israel had issued travel warnings earlier.