15 people including 6 children have been killed as three-cornered suicide bombers blew themselves up and others were shot dead during a Sri Lanka Security force operation in the aftermath of the Easter attacks. Sri Lanka police said Saturday.
The three men set off explosives, also killing three women and six children inside what was believed to a jihadist safe house near the eastern town of Kalmunai on Friday night. “Three other men, also believed to be suicide bombers, were found dead outside the house,” police said in a statement, adding that they had been shot.
Police backed by troops exchanged fire with those inside the house for over an hour, a military official said, adding that the bodies were recovered early Saturday following a search operation.
ISIS brutal reach to Sri Lanka
Security forces have stepped up their searches for extremists after the ISIS group claimed responsibility for the suicide attacks on three churches and three luxury hotels, which killed least 253 people and wounded hundreds more.
The joint operation between the police and the army was carried out following a tip-off that those responsible were holed up in a built-up area of Kalmunai, 370 kilometers (230 miles) east of the capital.
Friday’s clashes came hours after the security forces raided a nearby location where they believe Islamist radicals recorded a video pledge to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi before carrying out the Easter bombings.
Police said they found an ISIS flag and uniforms similar to those worn by the eight fighters for the video before they launched the attacks. ISIS released the video two days after the attacks.
The apologetic government on security lapses
The government has admitted major intelligence lapses, although Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he was unaware of any warnings ahead of the attacks, in a sign of the rift between him and President Maithripala Sirisena.
“If we had any inkling, and we had not taken action, I would have handed in my resignation immediately,” he told a news agency.
“But what do you do when you are out of the loop?”
Wickremesinghe tried to sack Sirisena last year, and experts believe the feud could have played a part in Sri Lanka’s failure to act on intelligence warnings given weeks before the attacks.
Read more: A bloodshot day in Sri Lankan history…