Wanted Sri Lanka radical Hashim led hotel attack: president

Wanted Sri Lanka radical Hashim led hotel attack: president
Photo: AFP

Colombo: An Islamic extremist believed to have played a key role in Sri Lanka’s deadly Easter bombings led an attack against a Colombo hotel, the country’s president confirmed Friday.

“What intelligence agencies have told me is that Zahran was killed during the Shangri-La attack,” President Maithripala Sirisena told reporters, referring to Zahran Hashim, leader of a local extremist group.

He added that Hashim led the attack against the high-end hotel and was accompanied by a second bomber, identified only as “Ilham”.

He said the information came from military intelligence and was based in part on CCTV footage recovered from the scene.

Hashim appeared in a video released by the Islamic State group after they claimed the bombings, but his whereabouts after the blasts were not immediately clear.

More than 250 people were killed in the attacks against three churches and three hotels. A fourth planned attack on a hotel failed.

Security forces had been on a desperate hunt for Hashim, believed to be around 40, after the government named the group he led — the National Thowheeth Jama’ath — as its prime suspect.

His appearance in the IS video, where he is seen leading a group of seven others in a pledge of allegiance to IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, only heightened fears about the radical.

He was a relative unknown before the attacks, though local Muslim leaders say they had reported him on more than one occasion to authorities for his extremist views and behaviour.