Two of the Sri Lankan suicide bombers, one of whom studied in Australia, are understood to have been the sons of a wealthy spice merchant.
The Sri Lankan suicide bomber who studied in Australia is understood to have been the son of a wealthy spice merchant and to have blown up one of the luxury hotels in capital Colombo.
Sri Lankan authorities believe that one of the Ibrahim brothers, sons of the prominent Colombo businessman Mohamed Yusuf Ibrahim, had completed post-graduate studies in Australia.
Ilham Ahmed Ibrahim, 31, and Imsath Ahmed Ibrahim, 33, have been identified as the bombers who attacked the Shangri-La and Cinnamon Grand hotels in the capital on Easter Sunday.
The brothers entered the respective restaurants’ breakfast buffets and detonated their backpack bombs about the same time. They were among the nine suicide bombers – eight men and one woman – who killed at least 359 people, including two Australians, in an attack for which the so-called Islamic State has claimed responsibility.
A spokesperson for Australia’s Department of Home Affairs said the government could “confirm that one of the alleged suicide bombers involved in the attacks in Sri Lanka has previously held a visa for Australia”.
But the spokesperson refused to comment further on “an active investigation” but said Australia could continue helping Sri Lankan authorities.
Sri Lanka’s junior Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene said on Wednesday: ” We believe that one of the suicide bombers studied in the UK and then later on did his postgraduate in Australia before coming back to settle in Sri Lanka.”
Mr Wijewardene said that “most of [the attackers] are well-educated and come from… middle or upper-middle-class” families. “They are financially quite independent and their families are quite stable financially,” he added.
Australia is one of four countries along with the United States, Britain and the United Arab Emirates that is helping Sri Lankan authorities with the investigation.
It was the worst Islamist attack outside of a war zone since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US. Australian mother and daughter Manik Suriaaratchi and her 10-year-old Alexendria were among those killed.
Bomber Ilham Ibrahim’s pregnant wife Fatima reportedly blew herself and her two children up when police raided the house where she was living and which was owned by Mr Ibrahim senior.
The team of suicide bombers, who also injured more than 500 people, launched co-ordinated attacks on churches and hotels on Sunday. As well as the Shangri-La and Cinnamon Grand hotels, they also hit the Kingsbury Hotel and St Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, St Sebastian’s church in Negombo and Zion Church in Batticaloa.
The Islamic State announced through its Amaq news agency that its “fighters” carried out the attack. It released a video purportedly of the bombers swearing allegiance to the group, though the video has not been independently verified.
The Sri Lankan government has accused the little-known group National Thowheed Jamath as being behind the attack. Its leader, Moulvi Zahran Hashim, appeared in the IS video in which the purported bombers pledged their loyalty to IS.