The suspected ringleader of the terrorist group accused of carrying out the Easter Sunday bombings died in the blast at the Shangri La hotel, the Sri Lankan authorities claimed on Friday.
Mohamed Zahran, the leader of the local jihadi group National Thawheed Jamath, known for his incendiary speeches on social media, was one of the suicide bombers who carried out the attacks on three hotels and three churches, the police said on an official Twitter account.
The police also revealed that they had arrested the group’s second-in-command and that the assailants’ military training was provided by “Army Mohideen” and weapons training had taken place overseas and at some locations in Sri Lanka’s Eastern province.
Maithripala Sirisena, the president, said the group was driven by “religious fanaticism,” suggesting its leader had killed himself to “set an example” and gain more followers.
However, in a somewhat confusing statement, Chula Senaviratne, the national security chief, said there was “still ambiguity whether he is dead or not” while DNA tests are being carried out.
“There is strong likelihood that the decapitated head of the suicide bomber at Shangri La was the same person we identified in the photographs…” he added. “However, we cannot be absolutely certain.”
The statements fit a pattern of claims and counterclaims by Sri Lankan officials that have muddied the waters in the chaotic aftermath of Sunday’s heinous attack as security forces rush to detain suspects and the government investigates a failure to act on key intelligence that could have prevented the tragedy.