10 civilians and 6 suspected terrorists killed in police raid in Sri Lanka

Article Image

CNN's Will Ripley is led through charred and debris-filled Saint Anthony's Church, which became the scene of a suicide bombing on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka.

Posted: Apr 27, 2019 5:30 PM
Updated: Apr 27, 2019 5:30 PM

Ten civilians -- including six children -- are dead along with six suspected terrorists after a shootout between police and alleged militants late Friday in eastern Sri Lanka, authorities said.

At least two suspected terrorists are on the run following an explosion that witnesses told CNN turned a house in Sainthamaruthu "into fire."

At daybreak, a gruesome scene was revealed at the raided house in the town on the country's eastern coast -- charred bodies and a roof blown off during three explosions.

Among the dead was a woman who was passing in a rickshaw at the time of the raid. Police are investigating the civilians' possible relationship to the suspected terrorists.

Earlier Friday, authorities had seized a large cache of explosives, 100,000 ball bearings and ISIS uniforms and flags from a garage a few miles from the shootout.

The raids come on the back of a major hunt for the perpetrators of the coordinated Easter Sunday attacks that killed 253 people, including worshippers attending Easter Mass.

National Tawheed Jamath, a local extremist group, has been blamed for those bombings but has not claimed the attacks. ISIS claimed responsibility, but a link between the attackers and the terror group has not been proven.

In Friday's shootout, one wounded suspect fled on a motorbike, and another suspected terrorist could be on the run as well, Maj. Gen. Aruna Jayasekera said.

One of the six suspected terrorists found dead has been identified as Mohamed Niyas, known to the authorities as a prominent member of the National Tawheed Jamath. Earlier in a statement from the army, Niyas was identified as the brother-in-law of the alleged ringleader of the Easter Sunday attacks, Zahran Hashim.

Hashim's driver was arrested Friday in Kattankudy, a town about an hour's drive north from Sainthamaruthu, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara told CNN. Police wouldn't say whether the driver was directly involved in the Easter bombings.

According to Aliyar Mohamed, who lives opposite the alleged bomb-making garage, the building was rented to people from Kattankudy.

"The owners ... realized there was suspicious stuff going on here, then police came here. The place was rented out two to three weeks ago," he told CNN.

"They (the tenants) came here claiming to start a slipper factory, and the owners saw the materials but didn't understand what they were. But after the Colombo bombings, and with the people being from Kattankudy, they then reported them to police."

The eastern cities of Kalmunai, Chavalakade and Sammanthurai remain under extended curfew until further notice, according to police. The curfew was imposed after the shootout.

Over the last 24 hours, police have raided four safe houses in Addailachchenai, Sammanthurai, Nintavur and Sainthamaruthu -- all in the eastern area, said Gunasekara, the police spokesman.

The raids came as the Sri Lankan army revealed new evidence Saturday about one of the suspected Easter Sunday bombers -- Abdul Lathief Jameel Mohamed, who killed himself while detonating a bomb at the Tropical Inn Guesthouse on the outskirts of Colombo.

In a document used to brief President Maithripala Sirisena on Friday and seen by CNN, the army says Mohamed traveled to Turkey with a friend "in the hope of entering Syria." While the friend later joined ISIS in Syria, Mohamed returned to Sri Lanka.

Hundreds of evacuees describe night of horror

Amid an ongoing police operation at the shootout site, around 600 nearby households -- mainly Muslim -- have been evacuated to a local school under guard by security forces.

One of the evacuees, Mohamed Feleel, told CNN that he heard the first bomb blast at around 7:15 p.m. Friday. The father of 10 said the explosions and gunfire continued for more than four hours until the village was evacuated at 6 a.m. Saturday.

"I was afraid, I stayed inside as there were people firing, people getting killed," Feleel said.

"Now at night I won't be sleeping, I'm too afraid."

Another witness, Kalandrsah Abdul Nasser, told CNN he was just 100 meters from the shootout and said the community was "devastated" by what happened.

He said the raided house was initially rented by two people on April 18 and they went away for a short period, and later returned with eight others, raising suspicions in the tight-knit community.

"It was the people of this village that went to the police about this group," Nasser said.

During the raid, Nasser said he "saw a big explosion and the house turned into fire."

Imprisonment for spreading fake news

The raid followed the Sri Lankan government's announcement Friday that anyone found guilty of spreading false information may be imprisoned for up to three to five years.

It said a number of public disturbances have been reported in the country due to false information in the wake of the Easter Sunday bombings.

A ban on social media following the attacks will remain in place due to "a lot of wrong information shared," Sirisena said Friday.

Meanwhile, Sri Lankan authorities have been attempting to root out "sleeper" cells that could initiate another round of attacks, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told CNN on Thursday.

"Every household in the country will be checked," Sirisena told a news conference, according to a statement. "The lists of permanent residents of every house will be established to ensure no unknown persons could live anywhere."

Sri Lankans remain on edge a week after the Easter bombings.

Catholic Sunday Masses have been suspended "until further notice," the Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, announced Friday. He said the move will ensure the safety of worshippers, and the church "will try to introduce some services" once better security was in place.

The government urged Muslims to stay home for Friday prayers, and many mosques were closed. However, some mosques defied the call, opening for midday prayers.

Both Christianity and Islam are minority religions in Sri Lanka, with each accounting for under 10% of the population. The vast majority of Sri Lankans identify as Buddhist.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 20573

Reported Deaths: 878
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin6918534
Ramsey231697
Stearns192312
Nobles14572
Anoka116455
Dakota105935
Olmsted55110
Washington50626
Kandiyohi4541
Clay36623
Rice3652
Scott3462
Wright2401
Sherburne2081
Todd1970
Benton1662
Carver1612
Mower1501
Steele1400
Martin1245
Blue Earth1121
St. Louis11113
Pine850
Freeborn840
Winona7715
Carlton730
Nicollet683
Cottonwood620
Polk582
Otter Tail550
Itasca527
Goodhue522
Watonwan500
Chisago481
Dodge430
Meeker420
Crow Wing421
Le Sueur411
Chippewa400
Jackson390
Morrison380
Murray350
Becker320
Lyon310
Douglas290
McLeod260
Isanti250
Waseca240
Rock210
Unassigned199
Fillmore171
Mille Lacs161
Wabasha160
Swift150
Sibley120
Beltrami120
Wilkin113
Norman110
Kanabec111
Cass113
Faribault110
Brown112
Pipestone100
Marshall80
Pennington70
Pope70
Aitkin60
Wadena60
Yellow Medicine50
Koochiching50
Lincoln50
Mahnomen51
Renville50
Lac qui Parle30
Red Lake30
Big Stone30
Redwood30
Traverse30
Grant20
Houston20
Clearwater20
Hubbard10
Kittson10
Lake10
Roseau10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 17227

Reported Deaths: 456
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk3714108
Woodbury255524
Black Hawk167639
Linn92775
Marshall86611
Dallas84914
Johnson5987
Muscatine54339
Wapello5004
Crawford4772
Tama39023
Louisa3347
Scott3319
Dubuque31916
Jasper25616
Buena Vista2310
Pottawattamie2106
Sioux1990
Washington1798
Allamakee1184
Wright1170
Plymouth1080
Warren1060
Story941
Poweshiek888
Bremer676
Henry611
Clinton601
Boone540
Des Moines531
Mahaska526
Cedar451
Guthrie433
Taylor370
Benton371
Jones360
Monroe334
Iowa320
Clarke320
Osceola320
Shelby310
Buchanan310
Clayton303
Marion290
Webster271
Fayette260
Hamilton260
Madison241
Monona230
Cerro Gordo221
Lee220
Winneshiek210
Davis200
Lyon190
Grundy190
Harrison190
Floyd181
Jefferson150
Cherokee150
Butler150
Mills140
Delaware140
Humboldt130
Sac130
Greene130
Keokuk130
Hardin130
Howard120
Hancock120
Appanoose123
Audubon111
Jackson110
Cass110
Ida100
Page100
Clay100
Winnebago100
Carroll90
Van Buren80
Franklin80
Dickinson80
Adair80
Chickasaw80
Kossuth70
Emmet70
Lucas60
Montgomery60
Union60
Adams50
Ringgold40
Fremont40
Pocahontas40
Mitchell40
Palo Alto30
Worth30
Unassigned30
Calhoun20
Wayne10
Decatur00
Rochester
Overcast
69° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 69°
Mason City
Overcast
68° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 68°
Albert Lea
Broken Clouds
66° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 66°
Austin
Broken Clouds
72° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 72°
Charles City
Broken Clouds
68° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 68°
Storms a brewin'
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Community Events