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Sri Lanka President: 'I Will Stamp Out ISIS'

Authorities say ringleader died in hotel bombing
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 26, 2019 7:45 AM CDT
In this Thursday, April 25, 2019 photo, a statue of St. James stands on a wall speckled with fragments of shrapnel at St. Sebastian's Church, where a suicide bomber blew himself up in Negombo, north of...   (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
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(Newser) – The alleged ringleader of the group of Islamic extremists behind the Sri Lanka Easter Sunday bombings blew himself up in the attack, authorities say, though they fear other militants still at large could carry out more attacks. President Maithripala Sirisena said Friday that radical preacher Zahran Hashim was one of two suicide bombers at Colombo's Shangri-La hotel, one of six hotels and churches attacked Sunday, the Guardian reports. Hashim, leader of the previously little-known National Tawheed Jamath group, appeared in a video released by ISIS this week in which he pledged allegiance to the extremists, reports the BBC. Sirisena said Friday that there are as many as 140 ISIS supporters in Sri Lanka, and 70 have been arrested. The death toll from the attacks has been revised to 253 from more than 350.

"I will stamp out ISIS from Sri Lanka," Sirisena vowed. "Our police and security forces are capable of achieving this." The president, who said warnings about the attacks had not been passed on to him, blamed investigations into human rights abuses during the country's civil war for "weakening" Sri Lanka's security forces. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said Friday he feared some of the suspects "may go out for a suicide attack" to avoid being arrested. Around 10,000 soldiers have been deployed across the country to search for suspects and protect places of worship, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports. Hundreds of Muslims have fled their homes fearing attacks from Christians seeking revenge—or, in the case of Sufis, from Islamic extremists who consider them heretics. (Read more Sri Lanka stories.)

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