POST TIME: 26 April, 2019 11:35:31 AM
Sister of ‘ringleader’ deplores attack
Independent Online Desk/BBC

Sister of ‘ringleader’ deplores attack

A foreign investigator (R) walks into St Anthony's Shrine as soldiers stand guard in Colombo yesterday, following a series of bomb blasts targeting churches and luxury hotels on the Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka. AFP Photo

Hashim Madaniya has found out that her brother, Zahran Hashim, is the alleged ringleader of a group of suicide bombers who attacked churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, killing more than 350 people. She says she is horrified by what he has done and fears what could happen next. She has been interviewed by police but is not being treated as a suspect. It’s still not clear if  Hashim, who is accused of leading a group of bombers that it’s alleged included two sons of a wealthy tycoon, is alive or dead.

Wearing a white scarf, Madaniya sits uncomfortably in the humidity of Kattankudy, a predominantly Muslim town overlooking the Indian Ocean. She is clearly unhappy with the attention that she is getting. She is the youngest of five siblings and Mr Hashim, believed to be around 40, is the eldest. She insists she has had no contact with her brother since 2017, when he went underground after police tried to arrest him over violence between ideologically opposed Muslim groups.

Since Sunday’s attacks, a video has emerged in which a man believed to be Zahran Hashim appears pledging allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State (IS) group, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

His is the only face visible among eight men who are said by IS to have carried out the attacks.

Sri Lankan police say there were nine attackers in total, including a woman, and that they were all homegrown. They were described as “educated” and “middle class” - with one having studied in the UK and Australia. Two were sons of a prominent spice trader who is now in custody and one of the men’s wives blew herself up during a raid on Sunday, killing her two children and several police officers, police sources say.

“I came to know about his activities only through the media. I never thought, even for a moment, that he would do such a thing,” says Madaniya of her brother.

“I strongly deplore what he has done. Even if he is my brother I cannot accept this. I don’t care about him anymore.”

Image caption Kattankudy’s Muslims fear reprisals because the preacher came from their town

Her brother, a radical Islamist preacher, came to local prominence a few years ago after he posted several videos on YouTube and other social media platforms denouncing non-believers.

   The videos triggered concern among other Muslims, who are a minority in Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka. Community leaders have said they raised concerns repeatedly with authorities but were ignored. Officials say they were unable to track him after he went into hiding.