Sri Lanka attacks: Bomber ‘studied in UK and Australia’
Published: 04:04 PM, 24 April 2019
One of the attackers behind the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka studied in the UK, officials say, as further details on the bombers emerge.
The country's deputy defence minister said the bomber studied in the UK before doing a course in Australia.
The announcement came after the death toll rose again to 359 on Wednesday, with more than 500 people wounded.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said the Islamic State (IS) group may be linked to the blasts.
IS has said it was responsible for the attacks, which targeted churches and high-end hotels, although it has not provided direct evidence of its involvement.
Key information from officials today:
Police have identified eight out of nine attackers - one of whom was a woman - with no foreigners among them
Most of the attackers were ‘well educated’ and ‘middle class’
The US envoy to Sri Lanka warned there were ‘ongoing terrorist plots’ in the country
Police have now detained around 60 people in connection with the attacks
What do we know about the attackers?
“We believe that one of the suicide bombers studied in the UK and then later on did his postgraduate in Australia before coming back to settle in Sri Lanka,” Deputy Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene told a briefing on Wednesday.
Mr Wijewardene said that "most of [the attackers] are well educated and come from... middle or upper middle class" families.
‘They are financially quite independent and their families are quite stable financially,’ he added.
Two of the bombers are reportedly brothers and the sons of a wealthy Colombo spice trader. They detonated their explosives at the Shangri-La and the Cinnamon Grand hotels, police sources told the AFP news agency.
Authorities say they are looking into possible links between the locals who carried out the suicide bombings and the Islamic State group.
Sri Lanka's government has blamed the blasts on local Islamist group National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ). But Mr Wickremesinghe said the attacks “could not have been done just locally.”
“There had been training given and a coordination which we are not seeing earlier,” he said.
Police have now detained around 60 suspects in connection with the attack. A state of emergency remains in effect to prevent further attacks.
The nearly simultaneous attacks targeted three churches packed for Easter services and three major hotels in the capital, Colombo.
An attack on a fourth hotel on Sunday was foiled, Mr Wickremesinghe said. He also warned that further militants and explosives could still be ‘out there’ following the attack.
The country remains tense with police still looking for suspects and possible further explosives.
Cautioning about “ongoing terrorist plots in the country” US envoy to Sri Lanka Alaina Teplitz told reporters that terrorists could “strike without warning.”
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