Fri, Apr 26, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Father of suspected bombers arrested

JITTERY COLOMBO:Authorities set off more controlled detonations of suspicious items, troops stopped and searched vehicles, and some businesses advised staff to stay indoors


The father of two of the suspected Easter suicide bombers yesterday was arrested on suspicion of aiding his sons, Sri Lanka’s former navy commander said as investigators continued to comb his Colombo mansion for evidence of the attacks that killed 359 people.

Retired admiral Jayanath Colombage, now a counterterrorism expert at the Pathfinder Foundation, confirmed the arrest. He said it was unclear whether the father or his home, where an explosion on Sunday killed three police officers, had been under surveillance ahead of the attacks.

Sri Lankan police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera did not answer repeated calls and messages seeking comment, but earlier said 58 people had been detained since the bombings.

The mansion was the site of a ninth explosion on Sunday, which one of the suspects apparently detonated to ward off police.

Sri Lanka’s capital yesterday remained jittery as authorities set off more controlled detonations of suspicious items, troops stopped and searched vehicles, and some businesses advised staff to stay indoors, four days after the string of suicide bombings in and around Colombo that officials say were conducted by local Muslim extremists.

John Keells Holdings, the parent company of the Cinnamon Grand hotel, one of the sites stricken in the Easter Sunday bombings, told employees at its various hotel properties to stay inside “further to the communications we have received” in an e-mail.

It was not immediately clear where the warning originated, and a police spokesman did not respond to several calls and messages.

The streets around Dematagoda, a wealthy Colombo neighborhood where officials say many of the bombing suspects lived, were quiet.

Investigators continued to comb through the mansion of the father of two of the suspects with nine front balconies and a white BMW parked out front.

In a house on the other side of a quiet, leafy lane full of large houses, a 14-year-old boy said that he used to ride bicycles and play soccer with one of the suspect’s children, a 10-year-old boy who frequently visited his relatives there, and that the other children at the house were too young to play outside.

He said his entire house shook when the bomb went off.

Sri Lankan police continued their search for additional explosives in and outside of Colombo, detonating a suspicious item in a garbage dump in Pugoda, about 35km east of the capital.

Sri Lanka’s civil aviation authority also banned drones and unmanned aircraft “in view of the existing security situation in the country,” a statement said.

Drones have been used by militants in the past to carry explosives.

Iraqi forces found them difficult to shoot down while driving out the Islamic State group, whose members loaded drones with grenades or simple explosives to target government forces, while Yemen’s Houthi rebels have used drones, most recently to target a military parade in January, killing troops.

The attacks on Sunday mainly at churches and hotels killed at least 359 people and wounded 500 more, the government said on Wednesday.

Most were Sri Lankan, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has confirmed 36 foreigners died.

The remains of 13 have been repatriated. Fourteen foreigners are unaccounted for and 12 were still being treated for injuries in Colombo hospitals.

A top Sri Lankan official has said that many of the suicide bombers were highly educated and came from well-off families.

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