President Maithripala Sirisena on Friday said the leader of an extremist group who planned the multiple suicidal attacks in Sri Lanka over the weekend was among those killed in one of the blasts.
“Sirisena told journalists that Zaharan Hashim was confirmed killed when he blew himself up in one of the five-star hotels,’’ local investigators confirmed.
The bomber, known as Zaharan, led a group known as the National Thowheeth Jama’ath and was known to have spread extremist ideology in various parts of the country.
Zaharan was responsible for organising attacks on Buddhist statues in central Sri Lanka in December.
A senior army officer at the briefing said that they had closely studied Zaharan’s facial features from available videos and compared them with the suicide bomber and determined that he had been killed.
A DNA test is currently being carried out to confirm this.
Meanwhile Sri Lanka’s health authorities have revised down the death toll in Sunday’s blasts, claiming only 253 deaths could be confirmed so far in contrast to the figures given by the police earlier, which said 359 people had died.
Security in Sri Lanka has been stepped up further, with many, although not all, mosques cancelling Friday prayers in view of the security situation.