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IS claims Sri Lanka bombings and releases photo of attackers

More than 320 people were killed in the Easter blasts.

Footwear and personal belongs of victims kept close to the scene of a suicide bombing at St. Sebastian Church in Negombo, Sri Lanka.
Footwear and personal belongs of victims kept close to the scene of a suicide bombing at St. Sebastian Church in Negombo, Sri Lanka.
Image: AP/PA Images

THE ISLAMIC STATE group has claimed a series of bombings that killed more than 320 people in Sri Lanka, and released a photo of the men it said were responsible.

The massive casualty toll would make the Easter attacks the deadliest overseas operation claimed by IS since the group proclaimed its worldwide caliphate in mid-2014.

“Those that carried out the attack that targeted members of the US-led coalition and Christians in Sri Lanka the day before yesterday are Islamic State group fighters,” said a statement released by IS propaganda agency Amaq.

In a later statement, the group gave the combat names of seven people who it said were behind the “blessed attack” that targeted Christians during their “blasphemous holiday,” referring to Easter.

It also released a photo of eight men it said were behind the blasts.

Seven of them had their faces covered and three of them held knives.

The one man who displayed his bearded face also appeared to carry an assault rifle.

The authenticity of the image could not be independently verified and the reason for the discrepancy in the reported number of attackers was not immediately clear.

Sunday’s bombings targeting churches and high-end hotels are among the deadliest such attacks worldwide since the 2001 strikes on the United States.

International terror

The Sri Lankan government blamed the Islamist National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ) group for the blasts, saying they were carried out in retaliation for last month’s attacks on two mosques in New Zealand.

The presidency said there was intelligence that “international terror groups” were backing Sri Lankan extremists.

Police sources told AFP Tuesday that two Muslim brothers — sons of a wealthy Colombo spice trader — were among the perpetrators of the attacks. 

They blew themselves up as guests queued for breakfast at the Shangri-La and Cinnamon Grand hotels in the capital, the source said.

The pair were key members of the NTJ, which the government has previously blamed for defacing Buddhist statues, according to an investigation officer. 

The IS statement today said three fighters it named as Abu Obeidah, Abu Baraa and Abu Moukhtar were behind the attacks on the Shangri-La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury hotels.

Three other fighters it named as Abu Hamza, Abu Khalil and Abu Mohammad carried out attacks on three different churches in the cities of Colombo, Negombo, and Batticaloa, it said. 

The seventh fighter, Abu Abdallah, killed three police officers in an attack in a Colombo suburb, it said.

 - © AFP 2019

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