- Sri Lanka’s president, Maithripala Sirisena, said Friday that the ringleader of the Easter Sunday attacks, Zahran Hashim, died in the bombing of the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo.
- Hashim was driven out of his hometown of Kattankudy for his extremist beliefs. Over the past few years, he had gained a large online following for his sermons that called for violence against non-Muslims.
- People in his hometown said they had warned authorities about Hashim, but don’t believe their concerns were taken seriously.
The ringleader of the Sri Lanka Easter Sunday bombings died in one of the attacks, the country’s president said Friday, according to the BBC.
Zahran Hashim has been identified as the mastermind of the attacks on churches and hotels in three Sri Lankan cities, which have claimed the lives of some 250 so far.
President Maithripala Sirisena said Hashim died in the bombing of the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo, a popular hub for tourists, along with another bomber, Ilham Ibrahim.
According to the Arab News, Hashim was a radical cleric who was driven out of his hometown of Kattankudy for his extremist beliefs.
In the past few years, he had gained a considerable online following for his YouTube and Facebook sermons which called for violence against non-Muslims, according to the New York Times.
He also was critical of fellow Muslims. In 2017, a sword-wielding Hashim charged towards a group of Sufi Muslims who were handing out packets of rice to the poor, which he thought was an attempt to recruit converts to their mystical form of Islam. Police say they tried to arrest Hashim after this incident but he escaped.
The Times interviewed H.W. Ameer, a member of the Sufi community in Kattankudy, who said that he and other Sufis had repeatedly warned the police about Hashim’s extremist views, but felt their concerns weren’t adequately addressed.
“We warned them that this man was vehemently spreading Wahhabism and that he was calling for jihad,” Ameer said. “It was out in the open, clear as day. Nothing was done.”
Wahhabism is a puritanical sect of Sunni Islam practioners that reside mainly in Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Hashim appeared on the radar for Sri Lankan intelligence officials about a year ago, when some of his students defaced Buddhist statues in central Sri Lanka. An investigation into the vandalism led investigators to a large cache of weapons, including explosives and detonators, on the northwestern coast of Sri Lanka, according to the Arab News.
Meanwhile, Hashim’s sister has condemned his acts to multiple media outlets.
“It’s unbearable to know what has happened,” Mohomed Hashim Madaniya told Sri Lanka’s Daily Mirror newspaper on Thursday. “I don’t want to have anything to do with him and hope he is dead.”
ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, and released a video in which Hashim is seen with other masked figures who may have been the other bombers. But it’s still unclear just how connected the group was to Hashim and his followers.
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