The father and two brothers of the suspected mastermind of Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday bombings were killed when security forces stormed their safe house on the east coast two days ago, police and a relative said on Sunday.
Zainee Hashim, Rilwan Hashim and their father Mohamed Hashim, who appear in a video circulating on social media calling for all-out war against non-believers, were among at least 15 killed in a fierce gun battle with the military on the east coast on Friday.
Kamal Jayanathdhi, the officer-in-charge of Kalmunai police station on the east coast, confirmed the three men had died along with a child who appears in the video, and that the undated clip in which they discuss martyrdom, had been shot in the same house where the gun battle took place.
Two people who were inside the house, a woman and a seven-year-old girl believed to be relatives of the men, survived, Jayanathdhi said, while a woman was killed in crossfire on a nearby street.
Niyaz Sharif, the brother-in-law of Zahran Hashim, the suspected ringleader of the wave of Easter Sunday bombings that killed over 250 people in churches and hotels across the island nation, told Reuters the video showed Zahran’s two brothers and father.
In the video, Rilwan is seen calling for “jihad”, while children cry in the background.
“We will destroy these non-believers to protect this land and therefore we need to do jihad,” Rilwan says in the video, sitting beside his brother and father.
“We need to teach a proper lesson to these non-believers who have been destroying Muslims.”
Rilwan, who has a damaged eye and badly disfigured hand in the video, had recently been injured while making a bomb, Jayanathdhi said.
Two men had moved into the three-room rented house in the Sainthamaruthu area of Kalmunai, days before the Easter Sunday attacks, the police and locals said. After more people arrived, locals grew suspicious, said Mohammed Majid, the secretary of the Grand Masjid Sainthamaruthu, one of the town’s main mosques.
After evening prayers on Friday, a group of men from the local Hijra Mosque came to the house to question the occupants.
When one man brandished an assault rifle, the men fled, alerting the police who arrived shortly afterwards. One man was killed after running into the street with a gun to confront the police, while a series of explosions came from the house, eyewitnesses said.
The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the Easter bombings, and on Sunday the group said three of its members clashed with Sri Lankan police for several hours in Friday’s gun battle on the east coast before detonating their explosive vests, the militant group’s news agency Amaq said.