Sri Lankan Official: the 'Worrying Factor' About Suspects

Defense minister says it appears many bombing suspects lived, studied abroad
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 24, 2019 8:11 AM CDT
This undated image posted by the Islamic State group's Amaq news agency on Tuesday purports to show Mohammed Zahran, aka Zahran Hashmi, center, the man Sri Lanka says led the Easter attack that killed...   (Aamaq news agency via AP)

(Newser) – The Islamic State has claimed credit for helping suicide bombers pull off the Easter weekend attacks in Sri Lanka, and the nation's defense minister is now citing a "worrying factor" about them. "Most of them are well-educated and come from middle- or upper-middle class [families], so they are financially quite independent," Ruwan Wijewardene said at a Wednesday press conference, the Guardian reports. Wijewardene added that many of the suspects—one of whom was a woman, he says, per Euronews—were believed to have spent time overseas, either studying or living in other countries, and one is thought to have gone to school in the UK and Australia before he came back to Sri Lanka.

Authorities now report nine bombers carried out the attacks that killed more than 350 people, per the New York Times. And though ISIS has taken responsibility for the bombings, the group has done so in the past with no evidence, so Sri Lankan authorities are trying to suss out just how much involvement it may have actually had. Authorities say at least five dozen people have been arrested so far, and Alaina Teplitz, US ambassador to Sri Lanka, says there may be "ongoing terrorist plots" in the works. "There could [still be] a few people out there," Wijewardene says, asking locals to be "vigilant." "Within the next few days, we will have the situation totally under control." Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports President Maithripala Sirisena has asked for nation's defense minister and top cop to resign after reports that security forces didn't take warnings of possible attacks seriously enough. (Read more Sri Lanka stories.)

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