The extremist leader at the heart of Sri Lanka's Easter Sunday bombings died in the attacks, the country's president said on Friday as police released images of several suspects allegedly linked to the deadly attacks that
President Maithripala Sirisena said Zahran Hashim, head of a local extremist group, was one of two attackers killed at one of the Colombo luxury hotels hit on Sunday.
"What intelligence agencies have told me is that Zahran was killed during the Shangri-La attack," he said.
Thousands of additional police and troops have been deployed across the country in the hunt for at least four men and a woman believed linked to the attack who remain at large.
Moer Sri Lankan police and military are on the ground, following the attacks. Source: Daily News
Sixteen people were arrested overnight in a series of raids and police said about 75 people were now in custody undergoing interrogation in relation to the attack that killed 253 in coordinated bombings of three churches and three luxury hotels.
Police initially released images of two women and four men, saying they were wanted in connection with the attacks – but were later forced to apologise when it emerged one of the images was of US-based activist Amara Majeed.
Police have released images of several of those accused of masterminding the bombing attacks. Source: AAP
Ms Majeed took to Twitter to demand an apology.
The incident added to the confusion after Sri Lankan authorities were forced to revise the death toll from 359 down to 253,
Sri Lankan Army Brigadier Sumith Atapattu said the army increased its deployment on the streets by 1,300 to 6,300, with the navy and air force also deploying 2,000 more personnel.
The original release by Sri Lankan security services. They were later forced to redact it after it emerged that the woman in the top left was in fact in the US. Source: Facebook
"We are armed with powers to search, seize, arrest and detain under emergency regulations," he said.
"We are involved in static guard duties, patrolling and helping with cordon-and-search operations."
The government also announced a ban on all drone flights and said licences issued to all commercial operators were suspended with immediate effect.
Sri Lankan authorities are also investigating a security failure to act on prior information about the impending Easter bombings.
President Maithripala Sirisena, who is also the minister of defence and law and order, has vowed to introduce a major security shake up with pledges to remove the heads of the police and armed forces "within 24 hours”.
The country’s top defence ministry official quit on Thursday, taking responsibility for security failures that led to the attacks.
(The New York Times) Source: AAP
Hemasiri Fernando, the most senior bureaucrat at the ministry, sent a letter of resignation to President Maithripala Sirisena, a government official said.
"He told the president that he was accepting responsibility and resigning so that the president can make a new appointment," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Recriminations have flown since Sunday's attacks and the country remained tense with many shops and offices closed and motorists staying off the roads.
Sunday's bomb attacks were the first in the country since the Tamil insurgency ended almost 10 years ago in May 2009.
While security forces continue to hunt for the outstanding terror plotters, further details have emerged about the
Thirty-three-year-old copper factory owner Inshaf Ibrahim detonated his explosive device at the busy breakfast buffet of the luxury Cinnamon Grand hotel restaurant, a source close to the family said.
IS has released images of the men who apparently carried out the attack. Source: Supplied
His 31-year-old brother Ilham Ibrahim is also dead - although there are conflicting reports he either blew himself up using a suicide vest at the Shangri-La hotel, or during a later confrontation at his house that also killed his pregnant wife and children.
There are reports his wife may have actually been responsible for that explosion, killing herself along with the remains of her family.
The Jihadi brothers were the sons of a wealthy spice merchant.