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Primary Sri Lanka bombing suspect arrested

June 14, 2019

One of the main suspects behind the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka has been extradited to the country. More than 250 people were killed in a string of attacks at churches and hotels across the island.

Security personnel stand guard in front of St Anthony's Shrine, days after a string of suicide bomb attacks across the island on Easter Sunday
Image: Reuters/D. Siddiqui

A man accused of being one of the ringleaders behind the Easter Sunday bomb attacks that killed more than 250 people in Sri Lanka on April 21 has been arrested, Interpol said Friday.

Hayathu Mohamed Ahmed Milhan, a 29-year-old Sri Lankan national, was arrested in the Middle East and has been extradited to Sri Lanka.

Interpol said he and four other men connected to the bombings were en route from Saudi Arabia to the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo.

Read more: Opinion: We must resist the perverse logic of religious terrorism

"The arrest and extradition of one of the key suspects in the Sri Lanka bomb attacks is an important step in the ongoing investigation, and one which Interpol is proud to have supported," Secretary General Jürgen Stock said.

No details were given as to where exactly in the Middle East the men were arrested.

Suspect an influential member of local Islamist group

In the attacks, nine suicide bombers targeted three churches, three luxury hotels and two other locations. Most of the victims were Catholic.

In the immediate aftermath, ethnic tensions flared in Sri Lanka, pitting majority Sinhala residents against the country's Muslim minority. At least one person was killed in the resulting clashes.

Though "Islamic State" (IS) claimed responsibility for the attacks, the Sri Lankan government blamed local Islamist groups. The 29-year-old that was arrested is said to have been in line to take control of one of those groups, the National Thawheedh Jamaath (NJT).

The NJT, which draws on ultraconservative Wahhabi tenets associated with Saudi Arabia, was founded in 2014 by the radical preacher Mohamed Zaharan. Authorities say Zaharan was one of the suicide bombers in the coordinated attack.

Sri Lankan authorities have arrested some 2,000 people in connection with the attacks, 634 of whom are still in custody, while the rest have been released on bail.

Read more: Easter Sunday bombings: Sri Lanka was 'an easy target'

Sri Lanka mourns bombing victims

'IS' seeking a foothold in India

On Wednesday, Indian authorities announced that they had seized electronic devices and arrested seven men during raids on seven homes in the southern city of Coimbatore. Police suspect the men are part of an Islamist cell in the area.

In recent months, India's National Investigation Agency (NIA) has also arrested more than a dozen individuals thought to be planning attacks in New Delhi.

Last month, after clashes between Indian security forces and jihadis in Kashmir, "IS" claimed that it had established a "province" in India. The group has been seeking to establish a presence on the Indian subcontinent since being driven out of Iraq and Syria.

js/amp (AFP, AP, AFP)

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