Six children and three women were among 15 people killed when suicide bombers blew themselves up during a shootout with security forces in Sri Lanka’s Eastern province, police said Saturday. The gun battle broke out on Friday night in the eastern Muslim town of Saindamaruthu in Kalmunai in the eastern Amparai district between the Police Special Task Force personnel and the army and members of the local terror group National Towheed Jamath (NTJ) which is blamed for the Easter Sunday bombings in which 253 people were killed and over 500 injured.
Police said the terrorists blew themselves up after the gun battle, killling six men, six boys and three men. A civilian caught in the cross-fire also was killed. A police spokesman said: “A total of 15 bodies were recovered, six men, three women and six children. At least four suspected suicide bombers are dead and three others who were injured are in hospital.” The curfew imposed in the Muslim-majority areas of Kalmunai, Chavalakade and Sammanthurai would continue until further notice, the police said.
“When the police was doing a joint search operation in Sainthamuruthu, gunfire was directed at them,” police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said. Police later recovered the body of a terrorist with a T56 assault rifle.Police also recovered detonators ball bearings from an arms dump near the encounter site. An army press release said the security forces recovered from two safe house in Samanthurai on Friday evening preceding the shootout not only explosives and detonators, but also gelignite sticks, acid bottles, detonating cords, ISIS flags and backdrops, suicide kits and military uniforms. Kalmunai in Muslim dominated Amparai in the east adjoins the Tamil majority Batticaloa where also a church was attacked around the time bombs went off in two churches Colombo.
The police said that 20 more people were arrested in connection with the April 21 bombings. Officials also seized one kg of explosives near a railway station at suburban Wellawatha, a popular Tamil area south of Colombo. At the security council meeting held on Friday night, it was decided to continue the crackdown on terrorists until the threat was completely eliminated.
Nine suicide bombers carried out a series of blasts that tore through three churches and three luxury hotels on the Easter Sunday, killing 253 people. President Maithala Sirisena has said the ring leader of the attacks was among those who died in the attacks. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility, but the government has blamed local Islamist extremist group NTJ.