Mohamed Zahran, the author of the Sri Lanka attacks, also died in the attacks carried by the group during the period of Easter in Sri Lanka. He was among the suicide bombers who blew themselves up on Sunday morning causing carnage.
He was the number one suspect in the five-day manhunt of the police. Zahran Hashim died while leading the suicide attack on the Shangri-La hotel in the capital Colombo with a second suicide bomber, President Maithripala Sirisena announced on Friday. Wanted by the authorities, the man was the head of the National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ), a local jihadist movement accused by Colombo of perpetrating the attacks that targeted churches and luxury hotels on Sunday morning.
Zahran Hashim led the suicide attack against the high-end hotel in the capital with a second suicide bomber, identified as “Ilham,” said the head of state. He appeared on a video published by the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group, who claimed responsibility for the attacks, where he was seen leading seven men in an oath of allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He was in his forties and was from the eastern region of Batticaloa, where one of the suicide bombers hit Sunday an evangelical church during Easter Mass.
The authorities are on the defensive in the face of the growing controversy over Sri Lanka’s inability to prevent this massacre, despite having very specific prior information. The Inspector General of Police resigned on Friday. Pujith Jayasundara is the second senior Sri Lankan official to step down after the top defense ministry official on Thursday night.
The police were also embarrassed when she mistakenly posted a picture of a Muslim American woman in a search for six suspects. “What a surprise to wake up to!” exclaimed the interested on Facebook.
The tension remains strong in Sri Lanka where the tracking of suspects continues. Security forces have arrested nearly 75 people since Sunday in connection with the bloodbath, whose human toll was revised sharply down Thursday night.
The authorities reduced the official number of deaths to 253, from 359 previously, saying that horribly mutilated bodies of victims had been counted several times in error. Of the 485 people who were hospitalized for injuries, 149 remained in hospital Thursday night, according to the Ministry of Health.
The country is also starting to calculate economic losses. “Tourism will be (the economic sector) hardest hit,” Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera told a press conference, “we expect a 30% drop in arrivals and that means a loss of about $ 1.5 billion.” The island of South Asia, prized for its idyllic beaches and lush greenery, had a record year in 2018 with 2.33 million tourists.
From the United Kingdom to Israel to the Netherlands, several nations have called on their nationals to avoid going to Sri Lanka, or to leave the country if they are there. Australia has ruled this Friday that new attacks will be likely committed, while the tracking of suspects in connection with attacks continues. Hundreds of Dutch people currently in Sri Lanka will be repatriated to the Netherlands “in the coming days,” the same day said a guarantee fund active in tourism.