Sri Lanka cops: One of nine 9 bombers studied in UK, Australia, Latest World News - The New Paper

Sri Lanka cops: One of nine 9 bombers studied in UK, Australia

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Police say 9 suicide bombers were involved and one was a woman

COLOMBO: One of the nine bombers that detonated explosives in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday was a woman, deputy defence minister Ruwan Wijewardene told reporters yesterday.

His comment came after police confirmed that nine suicide bombers were involved in the blasts and eight had been identified.

It was also revealed that one of them had studied in Britain and Australia.

The blasts at hotels and churches have so far killed at least 359 people, the deadliest such event in south Asia's history.

The police believe that radical group National Thowheeth Jama'ath is responsible for the attack and its leader, firebrand cleric Zahran Hashim, played a key role.

A video released on Tuesday by the Islamic State group, which earlier claimed responsibility for the Easter attacks, appears to prominently feature Hashim.

He appears to be the round-faced cleric in the footage - the only one of the eight figures depicted whose face is uncovered.

Dressed in a black tunic and headscarf and carrying a rifle, Hashim is seen leading seven purported attackers in a pledge of allegiance to Islamic State chief Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

The other seven people in the video all wear the same black tunics but with their faces obscured by black-and-white checkered scarves.

Hashim was a virtual unknown before the onslaught - even in Sri Lanka.

He had attracted several thousand followers on several social media sites, including YouTube and Facebook, where he posted incendiary sermons.

In one, the cleric with an unkempt black beard delivers an extremist diatribe against non-Muslims against the crudely photoshopped backdrop of flags in flames.

Mr Hilmy Ahamed, vice-president of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, said he had gone to local authorities with concerns about Hashim three years ago.

"This person was a loner and he had radicalised young people in the guise of conducting Quran classes," he told AFP.

"But nobody thought these people were capable of carrying out an attack of such magnitude." - AFP, REUTERS