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Sri Lanka blasts: Two brothers from wealthy family among attackers

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They included two sons of a spice tycoon

COLOMBO: A chauffeured BMW was always there to take him from his white villa to wherever he wanted to go.

Mr Mohammad Ibrahim was one of Sri Lanka's wealthiest spice traders, reported The New York Times.

Feted by the government and well-respected, he lived a life many envied.

Then came the Easter blasts.

The man who dealt with black pepper, white pepper, nutmeg, cloves and vanilla, now had to deal with death.

Two of his sons who lived in the white house in Mahawela Gardens have emerged as key players in the suicide attacks that killed more than 350 people and stunned an island state that had enjoyed a decade of relative peace.

Mr Ibrahim himself has been arrested.

The Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for the coordinated attacks on three churches and four hotels.

Inshaf Ibrahim, a 33-year-old copper factory owner, detonated his explosive device at the busy breakfast buffet of the luxury Shangri-La hotel, a source close to the family told Reuters.

When police raided the family home later that day, his younger brother Ilham Ibrahim detonated a bomb that killed himself, his wife and their three children, the source said, requesting anonymity for fear of reprisals.

Sri Lankan housewife Fathima Fazla thought of her neighbours in the grand three-storey home across the street as the wealthy celebrities of her humble Colombo suburb.

"They seemed like good people," Ms Fazla told Reuters from her rundown home opposite the Ibrahim family residence, now cordoned off with crime-scene tape and marshalled by police.

The brothers' names were also reported in local media.

Sri Lankan authorities have not released the identities of any of the bombers, and police did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr Ibrahim was a pillar of the business community and had six sons and three daughters. He was widely admired by many.

"He was famous in the area for helping the poor with food and money. It's unthinkable his children could have done that," Ms Fazla said. "Because of what they have done, all Muslims are treated as suspects."

Ilham Ibrahim, 31, openly expressed extremist ideologies and had been involved in meetings of National Thowheed Jamath, a local Islamist group suspected of involvement in planning the attacks, according to the source close to the family.

His entrepreneur brother, Inshaf, was outwardly more moderate in his views, and was known to be generous with donations to his staff and struggling local households, the source said.

Inshaf was married to a daughter of a wealthy jewellery manufacturer and he faced no problems with money.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Mr Ruwan Wijewardene, Sri Lanka's state minister of defence, said most of the bombers had been well educated and had come from middle-class or upper-class families, reported The New York Times.

"Financially they are quite independent and their families are stable financially. So that is a worrying fact," he said.

"Some of them have studied in other countries. They hold degrees. They are quite well-educated people."