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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

2019 Easter Blasts: Wife of a suicide bomber escaped to India, says Sri Lanka police

Probed by the Colombo Crime Division, Criminal Investigation Department and the Terrorism Investigation Department, the probe into the Easter Sunday blasts has result in the arrest of around 200 suspects, and the investigation is in its final stages.

Written by Arun Janardhanan | Chennai | Updated: July 23, 2020 10:57:53 am
Sri Lanka Attorney General department, Terrorism investigation division, National Thowheed Jamat ban, World news, Indian Express The blasts targeted St Anthony’s Church in Colombo, St Sebastian’s Church in the western coastal town of Negombo, and a church in the eastern town of Batticaloa when the Easter Sunday mass was in progress. (Reuters)

The wife of one of the suicide bombers who struck churches across Sri Lanka on Easter in April 2019, resulting in the death of 260 people, has fled to India fearing arrest, the police of the island nation has said.

Testifying before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry, which is probing the blasts, Chief Inspector of Police Arjuna Maheenkanda said Pulasthini Rajendran alias Sarah — the wife of Atchchi Muhammadu Hastun, who detonated his bomb at the St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo — may have fled to India via sea in September 2019.

His submission was based on an input he received on July 6 this year through an informant. The information was that a woman, believed to be Sarah, who was initially believed to have been killed in the explosion at a house in Sainthamaruthu on April 26, 2019, had actually fled the scene and was in hiding before escaping to India from Sri Lanka’s Mannar coast.

Probed by the Colombo Crime Division, Criminal Investigation Department and the Terrorism Investigation Department, the probe into the Easter Sunday blasts has result in the arrest of around 200 suspects, and the investigation is in its final stages.

According to the Colombo Crime Division, Sarah was hiding in a village called Mankadu in the Kalawanchikudy area.

Jaliya Senaratne, director of the Police Media Division, told The Indian Express, “We do not have any concrete information about her whereabouts in India except a report that she managed to escape to India. We arrested two persons on July 13 — her relative and a senior police officer — from Ampara (an eastern province of Sri Lanka) for harbouring that lady before her escape. They are in custody.”

An estimated 15 people, including four women and six children, were killed in the Sainthamaruthu blast. The explosion, which killed the families of at least four of the suicide bombers, had occurred when security forces launched an operation to capture them, a week after the Easter blasts.

When The Indian Express visited Sainthamaruthu blast site two days later, the two known survivors from the explosion were the wife and daughter of Zahran Hashim, the main suicide bomber.

A senior officer said Hashim’s wife, who sustained serious injuries in the blast, is currently under detention.

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