Seven 'suicide bombers' arrested in Sri Lanka

Colombo, April 22, 2019 (Xinhua)
Colombo, April 22, 2019 (Xinhua) --People work at a blast scene at St. Anthony's Church in Kochchikade in Colombo, Sri Lanka, April 21, 2019. The death toll from the multiple blasts that ripped through Sri Lanka on Sunday rose to 228 while 450 others were injured, local media quoting hospital sources said. (Xinhua/Wang Shen/IANS) IANS

Seven trained suicide bombers identified as followers of the National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) Islamist group have been arrested in Sri Lanka, the police said.

The suspects were arrested earlier this week from Hambantota and are alleged to be close associates of Zahran Hashim -- the brain behind the Easter Sunday bombings which killed over 250 people and injured hundreds.

The suspects were brought to Hambantota by a brother of Hashim, the Daily Mirror reported on Wednesday.

The April 21 attacks have been blamed by the Sri Lankan government on the NTJ, which is believed to have links with the Islamic State which claimed the killings.

The report said that the suspects had been trained "very discreetly" in Hambantota over a long period on the use of arms.

Mohamed Nasar Mohamed Asath who blew himself up inside the Zion Church in Batticaloa is said to have provided the training instructions, according to the daily.

The suspects will be interrogated about the affairs of the NTJ and their connections to the bomb blasts.

Meanwhile, the police on Wednesday recovered a haul of swords and knives at a public well, adjacent to R. Premadasa Cricket Stadium in Maligawatte.

At least 46 swords, a pistol and knives were found inside the well wrapped in a fertilizer bag. During the search, the police had also recovered methamphetamine.

Police officials believe that following a search operation, some individuals might have disposed them off in the well.