This is the face of the mastermind behind the Sri Lanka terrorist attacks on Easter Sunday, unconfirmed reports in local media have claimed. Zahran Hashim, a radical Islamic cleric known for posting incendiary videos on YouTube, was allegedly one of the suicide bombers who targeted the Shangri La hotel in Colombo.
Earlier indicators suggest those behind the devastating blasts which killed 290 people and wounded around 500 more were inspired by ISIS, a US official told CNN. Hashim had also wanted to attack the Indian High Commission in the capital of Sri Lanka on April 4 but failed to do so, intelligence sources told CNN-News18.
It comes after government officials accused the National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) of carrying out the bombs in five-star hotels and churches. While no group has admitted the carnage, government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne on Monday said authorities believed the NTJ was behind the suicide bombings.
The terror group is thought to have split off from another Islamist organisation in the South Asian country, the Sri Lanka Thowheed Jamath (SLTJ). SLTJ, have condemned the attack, strongly deny any links with the NTJ and say they actively oppose the group. The secretary of the SLTJ, Abdul Razik has been arrested several times on charges of inciting religious unrest.
In 2016, authorities were warned there would be a ‘blood bath’ by the head of radical Buddhist group BSS, Galagodaatte Gnanasara, if Razik was not arrested. Before being named prime suspects in the blasts which killed 39 foreign tourists and injured another 28, the group were known for little more than being linked to vandalising Buddhist statues.
In January, four Muslim radicals were detained after Sri Lankan security forces discovered 100 kilogrammes of high explosives and 100 detonators near a remote wildlife park. Meanwhile, authorities said 24 people have been arrested over the Easter bombings and that they were hunting for links between the group and foreign backers.