Colombo, April 29 (IANS): The sister of the suspected ringleader of Sri Lanka’s deadly April 21 Easter Sunday bombings has said that up to 18 of her family members are missing and feared dead since the attacks and subsequent raids, the media reported.
Mohamed Hashim Mathaniya is the sister of Mohamed Zahran Hashim, the man Sri Lankan authorities believe was one of the leaders of the attacks.
Speaking to CNN on Saturday, Mathaniya said she identified her brother from photographs of his body parts at the police station earlier in the week.
“Five men went missing after the attacks (on Sunday). They were my three brothers, my father, and my sister’s husband,” she said.
On Friday night, 10 civilians, including six children, were killed along with six suspected terrorists after a shootout between police and alleged militants in the town of Sainthamaruthu on Sri Lanka’s eastern coast.
On Saturday, a gruesome scene was revealed at the raided house — charred bodies and a roof blown off during three explosions.
One of the militants killed in that raid has been identified as Mohamed Niyas, a prominent member of the local extremist group National Thowheed Jamaath and Mathaniya’s brother-in-law.
“It did not hit me until I saw the bodies of the men and women. When they said six children, I thought whether they could be the people related to me,” Mathaniya told CNN.
“Among the women, there were five women there in the house. The wives of my three brothers, my younger sister, and my mother. There were altogether seven children.”
Mathaniya said her brother Zahran Hashim’s wife and daughter are currently in the hospital.
The raids are part of a nationwide hunt for the perpetrators of the Easter Sunday attacks that killed 253 people and injured more than 500 others.
In the last 24 hours, at least 48 suspects have been arrested, National Police Spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said on Sunday.
Meanwhile three MPs told CNN that their personal security officers have received an internal memo from the VIP Security Division of the Sri Lankan police, warning that there could be more attacks in the coming days.
The memo said the possible attacks were planned by the “same perpetrators” as those thought to be behind the Easter Sunday bombings.