Who were the Sri Lanka bombers? Everything we know so far about the Easter Sunday attacks

Telegraph Reporters
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Easter Day bomb blasts at three Sri Lankan churches and four hotels killed 359 people and wounded hundreds more, following a lull in major attacks since the end of the civil war 10 years ago.

The explosions, some of which officials said were suicide bomb attacks, led to an immediate clampdown, with the government declaring a curfew and blocking access to most major social media and messaging sites.

What happened?

The powerful blasts - six in quick succession and then two more hours later - wrought devastation, including at the capital's well-known St Anthony's Shrine, a historic Catholic Church.

The three hotels hit in the initial attacks were the Shangri-La Colombo, Kingsbury Hotel in Colombo and the Cinnamon Grand Colombo.

The first six explosions were all reported within a short period in the morning just as church services were starting. Hours later there were two further attacks in the outskirts of Colombo.

Police the attacks were carried out by suicide bombers.

Who were the victims?

The death toll rose to 359 on Wednesday after several people died of their injuries overnight, a police spokesman said. There were hundreds of people injured in hospitals.

There were eight British citizens killed in the attack, two of whom had dual US nationality.

Ben Nicholson said his wife Anita, 42, son Alex, 14, and daughter Annabel, 11, had been killed as they sat at a table for breakfast in the Shangri-la Hotel in Colombo on Easter Sunday.

"Mercifully, all three of them died instantly and with no pain or suffering," Mr Nicholson said.

 Ben Nicholson (right) with the other members of his family who were killed 

Daniel Linsey, 19 and his younger sister Amelie, 15, were having breakfast with their father Matthew at the luxury Shangri-La Hotel when the suicide bomber struck.

Dr Sally Bradley and her husband Bill Harrop were staying in the Cinnamon Grand Hotel when one of the seven suicide bombers struck.

The Manchester couple had been living in the Australian city of Perth since 2013 where Dr Bradley was practising medicine, but were due to return to the UK soon.

Lorraine Campbell, 55, was staying at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel in Colombo when it was targeted by suicide bombers during a series of co-ordinated attacks on Easter Sunday. 

Ms Campbell, from Manchester, was in Sri Lanka on a business trip and was living in Dubai at the time of her death.

Tulip Siddiq, the Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, said she lost a relative in the attacks. "It is all so devastating," she wrote on Twitter. "Solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka."

The first American victim of the Sri Lanka terror attack has been named as 40-year-old Dieter Kowalski. 

Mr Kowalski, from Denver, Colorado, checked into the luxury Cinnamon Grand Hotel in Colombo just hours before it was targeted by the bombers. 

Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry said the nationalities of 11 foreigners killed in the Easter Sunday blasts have been verified. Three Indians, one Portuguese and two Turkish nationals were killed, while a further nine foreigners were also reported missing. A Dutch national and a Chinese national also have been reported among the victims.

Read more about the victims. 

Who was behind the attacks?

Sri Lankan authorities have blamed a local extremist group, National Towheed Jamaat, whose leader, alternately named Mohammed Zahran or Zahran Hashmi, became known to Muslim leaders three years ago for his incendiary online speeches.

On Wednesday, junior defence minister Ruwan Wijewardene said the attackers had broken away from National Towheed Jamaat and another group, which he identified only as "JMI."

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attacks. Authorities remain unsure of the group's involvement, though authorities are investigating whether foreign militants advised, funded or guided the local bombers.

All of the bombers were Sri Lankan citizens, but authorities suspect foreign links, Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said at a news conference.

Who were the attackers?

Abdul Lathief Jameel Mohamed

One of the masterminds behind the Sri Lanka suicide bombings, Abdul Lathief Jameel Mohamed lived in London and spent a year at Kingston University on an aerospace engineering course, The Telegraph can disclose.

The Islamic State terrorist spent a year at the university in south west London in the academic year 2006 to 2007, according to well-placed sources, before travelling to Melbourne in Australia for a postgraduate course.

Intelligence agents are now combing through connections made in the UK to examine whether he could have been radicalised in this country - and whether he could have been in contact with jihadists at that time.

A group of men claiming to be the the Sri Lanka bomb attackers appear in an Isil propaganda video

Jameel Mohamed is thought to have died in the blast at the Tropical Inn in Dehiwala, a suburb in Colombo, in a second wave of suicide bombings on Easter Sunday. Two people were killed when he detonated the bomb at the guesthouse near the zoo, five hours after the first wave.

The former Kingston University student’s expertise in aerospace and mechanical engineering will inevitably raise questions over whether he could have been the chief bomb-maker involved in the operation. It may also explain why he was not involved in the first wave of attacks and that he acted after the net began closing in.

Inshaf Ahamed Ibrahim

Ibrahim, 33, blew himself up at the Cinnamon Grand just before 9am local time in a third-floor restaurant. He is believed to have been “brainwashed” by his radical younger brother, the Telegraph can disclose.

Security services are understood to be examining his links to Britain after a source confirmed he had travelled to the UK frequently in recent years.

Documents show that Inshaf was a successful businessman who acted as export director at his father’s spice firm, but also ran a copper factory. In 2016 he was pictured accepting a Presidential Export Award alongside his father at a ceremony in Colombo.

Sri Lankan suicide bomber Inshaf Ahamad, pictured far right alongside his successful businessman father Mohamed Ibrahim in 2016 Credit: Daily News

Neighbours said he was married to the daughter of a wealthy jeweller, drove upmarket cars and wore Western fashions.

A source at the spice firm told the Telegraph that Inshaf had been “totally normal” until around three years ago, when he began to fall under the influence of his younger brother.

Ilham Ibrahim

The younger brother of Inshaf killed himself when he detonated a suicide bomb at the Shangri-La Hotel, also in the capital Colombo.

As police raided their mansion, in an exclusive and wealthy part of Colombo, hours later, Ilham's pregnant wife Fatima also detonated a bomb, killing herself, her three children and three officers.

Ilham Ibrahim

The brothers belonged to one of the wealthiest Muslim families in the capital, with connections to the country's business and political elite. Their father is Mohamed Ibrahim, a prominent businessman who runs Colombo-based Ishana Exports, described on its website as the "largest exporter of spices from Sri Lanka since 2006." 

Ilham, who was younger, was described as more aloof, awkward and more overtly religious. 

“Ilham is one of the directors of the business but later he stopped being involved and only stayed at home," a source at the spice firm told the Telegraph.

“He was the one who brainwashed Inshaf and took him to their group.”

How did Sri Lanka react?

The government beefed up security and imposed an immediate and indefinite curfew across the country.

It also put in place a "temporary" ban on social media platforms "in order to prevent incorrect and wrong information being spread".

Security at Colombo's airport was also enhanced, according to Sri Lankan Airlines, which advised its passengers to arrive four hours before their flights. It added that passengers with passports and tickets will be able to reach the airport during the curfew.

he front page of a Sri Lankan newspaper, showing coverage of the Easter Sunday blasts, hangs at a newsstand in Colombo  Credit: AFP

The Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, called on Sri Lanka's government to "mercilessly" punish those responsible "because only animals can behave like that."

Two Muslim groups in Sri Lanka also condemned the church attacks.

The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka said it mourned the loss of innocent people in the blasts by extremists who seek to divide religious and ethnic groups.

The All Ceylon Jammiyyathul Ulama a body of Muslim clerics, said targeting Christian places of worship cannot be accepted.

Embassies in Sri Lanka have warned their citizens to shelter in place.

Here is a round-up of the world's reaction to the atrocity.