The father and two brothers of the suspected mastermind of Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday bombings were killed when security forces stormed their safe house two days ago, police sources and a relative of the suicide bombers told Reuters on Sunday.
Zainee Hashim, Rilwan Hashim and their father Mohamed Hashim, who were seen in a video circulating on social media calling for all-out war against non-believers, were among 15 killed in a fierce gun battle with the military on the east coast on Friday, four police sources said.
Niyaz Sharif, the brother-in-law of Zahran Hashim, the suspected ringleader of the wave of Easter Sunday bombings that killed over 250 people in churches and hotels across the island nation, told Reuters the video showed Zahran’s two brothers and father.
Three of the people killed in Friday’s gun battle were the same people who were seen in the undated video on social media, in which they discus martyrdom and urge their followers to kill all non-believers, police sources said.
Sri Lanka has been on high alert since the attacks on Easter Sunday, with nearly 10,000 soldiers deployed across the island to carry out searches and hunt down members of two local extremist groups believed to have carried out the attack.
In the video, Rilwan Hashim is seen calling for all-out ‘jihad’, or holy war, while children cry in the background.
Authorities suspect there may be more suicide bombers on the loose. Defence authorities have so far focused their investigations on international links to two domestic groups they believe carried out the attacks, the National Thawheedh Jamaath and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim.
The group said 17 policemen were killed or injured in the attack, but the Sri Lankan military has denied this. A police source told Reuters two policemen were slightly injured in the battle.
Police have said six children were among the other 12 people who died in the gun battle, but have not released further details.