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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Inside terrorists’ safehouse: Damaged assault rifle, toy car

Friday night’s suicide blast in small hall during raid leaves trail of destruction.

Written by Arun Janardhanan | Sri Lanka |
Updated: April 29, 2019 1:25:41 am
sri lanka, sri lanka blasts, sri lanka church blasts, sri lanka attacks, sri lanka easter sunday attacks, zaharan hashim, army, islamic state, suicide bombers, world news, indian express news A projector found in the safehouse. (Arun Janardhanan)

A partially burnt mosquito net and a gutted motorcycle are among what remains inside the terror safehouse in eastern Sri Lanka that the Army raided Friday night, killing 15 people including the father and two brothers of Zaharan Hashim, the suspected mastermind of the Easter Sunday blasts that killed over 250 people.

Most of the 15 died in a suicide blast inside a small hall where most of the residents of the one-bedroom house in Sainthamaruthu had gathered, officers said.

Citing preliminary investigations, an Army officer said the bomb that was set off contained C4 explosives. “As the Army started firing, they moved to the front hall, which shares a wall with a neighbour’s house. Two of those who escaped were in a nearby room,” the officer said.

Investigators said the bodies recovered were charred beyond recognition but it is suspected that they belong to Zaharan’s father, mother, two brothers, a sister and their families, including six children. Zaharan’s wife and and four-year-old daughter have been admitted to the district hospital.

Read | Across Sri Lanka, a manhunt for Islamic State suspects, fear grips its minorities

The Indian Express found various articles in the house that give an indication of the life its residents led in the days and hours leading to the raid — from the remnants of an assault rifle to a damaged toy car. An officer guarding the site said the suicide bombers camped here from April 18 or 19 and had enough ammunition to keep the Army at bay for a while.

Inside the house, were a wheelchair, a movie projector placed on a gas cylinder, and pieces of watermelon in the kitchen. “This was their last supper,” said an officer.

With the children ranging from the ages of one to eight, there were dolls, a small cricket bat, jigsaw puzzles, three toy cars, used baby diapers and clothes, and three school textbooks of classes 2 and 3 for Maths, Science and English. Besides, There were also three flasks, a washing machine, a fridge and other kitchen appliances, and several pairs of footwear scattered around.

Also Read | Sunday Mass cancelled across Sri Lanka a week after bombings

Officers also pointed to a purported video shot before the attacks in Sammanthurai, in a two-storey house around 12 km from the safehouse, in which two of the suicide bombers are heard speaking about their allegiance to the Islamic State (IS).

Sources said the video features a man without fingers on one hand, who they suspect could be a brother of Hashim, and an old man joining the two later who is likely to be his father.

The house in Sammanthurai, which is said to belong to a businessman, was also raided Friday night, with police recovering IS flags and banners. A neighbour told The Indian Express that he had seen new residents there for the “last two months”.

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