Pregnant wife of Sri Lanka bomber detonates suicide vest, killing children and police
Posted on April 24th, 2019

By South Asia correspondent Siobhan Heanue, Middle East correspondent Eric Tlozek and wires Courtesy ABC News

Yellow crime scene tape blocks off a white house as a police man stands and talks on his phone.

PHOTO: A policeman stands outside the family home raided by police after the Sri Lanka terror bombings on Easter Sunday.(ABC News)

The pregnant wife of a Sri Lanka bomber detonated a suicide vest when police raided the affluent family’s home in the wake of the terror attacks, killing her own children.

Key points:

  • Death toll from Sri Lanka suicide bombings stands at 359 killed, 500 injured
  • Two brothers at the centre of the plot were the sons of a wealthy spice merchant
  • Many hotel staff are not turning up to work, scared that their workplaces will be targeted

Another of the suicide bombers behind the deadly string of attacks that killed 359 people and injured 500 on Easter Sunday studied in Australia before returning to settle in Sri Lanka.

Abdul Lathief Jameel Mohamed studied in the UK before doing postgraduate study in Melbourne.

Sri Lanka’s deputy defence minister Ruwan Wijewardene told a press conference most of the suicide bombers were well educated and from affluent families.

Some had law degrees, and all were Sri Lankan, he added.

A camouflage van is parked in front of a white house, with police in the background with yellow crime scene tape.

PHOTO: A bomb squad vehicle on the street in Sri Lanka following the Easter Sunday terror bombings that claimed more than 300 lives. (ABC News)

‘Blood brothers’

Two brothers at the centre of the plot were the sons of a wealthy spice merchant, and their sprawling white house is one of the most ostentatious in the suburb where they lived.

A picture of broken windows.

PHOTO: When police raided the home of a family believed to be involved in the Sri Lanka terror attacks, a bomb was detonated, killing those inside and shattering windows. (ABC News)

One of them, Inshaf Ibrahim, a copper factory owner in his 30s, is believed to have been the mastermind of the bomb plot.

He detonated his explosive device at the busy breakfast buffet of the luxury Shangri-La hotel, a source close to the family said.

The family’s Colombo home was raided by police shortly afterwards.

Mr Wijewardene said that as police arrived, the pregnant wife of one of the brothers detonated a suicide jacket, killing herself and her two children as well as three police officers.

Sri Lankan police outside a big white house.

PHOTO: Police outside the Ibrahim house, where a pregnant woman detonated a suicide vest, killing herself, her two children, and three police officers. (ABC News: Eric Tlozek)

Ilham Ibrahim openly expressed extremist ideologies and had been involved in meetings of National Thowheed Jamath, a local Islamist group suspected of involvement in planning the attacks, according to the source close to the family.

Who are the National Tawheed Jamaath?

Who are the National Tawheed Jamaath?

Questions are being raised regarding an alleged warning by the Sri Lankan Foreign Intelligence services prior to the attack, and whether enough was done to prevent it.

His entrepreneur brother, Inshaf, was outwardly more moderate in his views, and was known to be generous with donations to his staff and struggling local households, the source said.

He was married to the daughter of a wealthy jewellery manufacturer.

The brothers’ father, Mohamed Ibrahim, was arrested as police investigate those behind the attacks, police said.

Mr Ibrahim, a wealthy spice trader and pillar of the business community, had six sons and three daughters. He was admired by many who knew him.

“He was famous in the area for helping the poor with food and money. It’s unthinkable his children could have done that,” neighbour Fathima Fazla said.

“Because of what they have done, all Muslims are treated as suspects.”

A black garage door is badly dented with yellow crime scene tape in front.

PHOTO: The garage door was badly damaged after a bomb detonation at the Ibrahim house in Dematagoda, Colombo, Sri Lanka. (ABC News)

Muslim community instilled with fear

Sri Lanka’s Muslim community is on edge, with Pakistani Muslim refugees near Negombo — where a church was blown up — boarding buses to escape the threat of retaliation.

Muslims living nearby the family of the two sibling suicide bombers expressed their sorrow that their neighbours were involved in the terror plot.

Yellow flowers in vases and a statue of the Virgin Mary in a window with a streetscape in the background.

PHOTO: A Christian shrine opposite the Dematagoda mosque in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (ABC News: Eric Tlozek)

“Not only for Muslims, the whole community, the whole of Sri Lanka, everybody is our brothers and sisters, everybody who has passed away are our brothers and sisters,” said a woman who identified herself by her first name Taybeh, a Muslim neighbour of the Ibrahim brothers.

“Everybody was worried; we didn’t have proper sleep for three days.

“I have a small brother, he was very afraid, all the kids in the lane, they were very afraid, my small brother — he is not even going to the bathroom by himself.

A large banner reads: 'We condemn the senseless killings of innocent Christians at worship in their Churches'.

PHOTO: A banner condemning extremism outside a mosque in Sri Lanka following the terror suicide bombings that claimed hundreds of lives. (ABC News: Brant Cumming)

“Everyone is thinking, what will happen the next moment?” she said.

“Even when I sleep I don’t know whether I’ll get up the next morning.”

Intelligence failure heightens political tensions

The failure to act on detailed intelligence pointing to the planned attacks has led to feuds at the highest levels of government, with Sri Lankan President Maithrapala Sirisena asking for the country’s defence secretary and police chiefto step down.

A special task force officer speaks with an official outside the Ibrahim home

PHOTO: A special task force officer speaks with an official outside the Ibrahim home, where the Sri Lanka terror bombings were allegedly masterminded. (ABC News: Eric Tlozek)

Mr Wijewardene, the deputy defence minister, said authorities had been investigating Islamic State group infiltration in Sri Lanka for years, keeping a close eye on returned foreign fighters and their families.

“I didn’t know it was going to be scaled up to this,” he said.

Arrests, interrogations and controlled detonations are still continuing around Sri Lanka, with authorities saying they also plan to beef up security around airports and for airlines.

‘She was already dead’

'She was already dead'

Australian man Sudesh Kolonne describes the harrowing moment his wife and 10-year-old daughter were killed in the Sri Lanka terrorism attacks. 

Australian, UK, US and UAE agencies are helping with investigations.

“Within a couple of days, we will have total control,” Mr Wijewardene said.

The attacks have already had a devastating effect on Sri Lanka’s economy, with mass cancellations of bookings at hotels.

The Colombo Shangri-La hotel, which was bombed, has shut until further notice.

Many hotel staff are not turning up to work, scared that their workplaces will be targeted.

The increased security presence around major centres and night time curfews are continuing.

But there is concern whether the funding, as well as the manpower and training to sustain this degree of security, will be available.

But for now, sweeping emergency powers for the military is the new normal.

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