Ramesh Raju, Rasalingam- two heroes who stopped Lankan church bomber

Ramesh Raju, Rasalingam- two heroes who stopped Lankan church bomber

Agency News

Ramesh Raju and Rasalingam Sasikumar are now being hailed as heroes for stopping the bomber Azhar from killing hundreds of people.

Because of these two heroes resistance, only 29 people were killed in the bombing by Mohammed Azar outside the Zion evangelical church in Batticaloa.

Zion church was packed at the time and there were dozens of children fresh from Sunday school. Raju and Rasalingam had volunteered to help manage the crowds, according to witnesses. When the duo spotted an unfamiliar man, terrorist Mohammed Nasar Mohammed Azar, carrying two huge bags, Ramesh Raju confronted him and asked Mohammed Azar to leave them outside. The bomb went off during the argument.

The original plan of terrorist Mohammed Nasar Mohammed Azar was to blow up St. Mary’s Cathedral in Batticaloa. But by the Mohammed Azar reached there at 8.30 am, Easter Sunday mass of the church had already finished. So Azar turned to the nearby Zion Church where evangelical congregation was going on. Azar decided to choose Zion Church as his bombing site.

Inside the Zion Church, dozens of children had just finished Sunday school. Videos of the session released later show them praying and singing in circles moments before the attack.

After the school finished, some of the children had wandered outside to enjoy their breakfast during the short break before the main mass was due to begin at 9 a.m. Azar approached the church entrance, intending to go inside the building to inflict maximum damage. But he was foiled for a second time -- stopped by two church officials, Ramesh Raju and Rasalingam Sasikumar, before he got through the door.

"Ramesh and Sashikumar were both trying to stop him from entering the church," said Rajeevkaran Vimalaretnam, a 38-year-old sound technician for the church. "They had apparently refused permission for him to enter the church and asked him to leave."

Azar had been stopped because he looked suspicious, Vimalaretnam added. A CCTV footage obtained by CNN shows Azar walking down the lane to the church at 8:51 a.m., wearing a pink polo shirt and tracksuit pants, and carrying a heavy blue backpack.

When asked why he was carrying a large bag, Azar replied that he wanted to film the church service. Ramesh and Sashikumar said they would need to seek permission from the pastor. As the discussion was taking place, Vimalaretnam walked inside the church, which he said already had around 500 people seated in the pews.

It was then that Azar seemingly decided to cut his losses and detonate his bomb outside, where the children who had just finished Sunday school were gathering. When Azar detonate the bomb, two men, both Ramesh and Sasikumar, were holding to stop him. In the explosion, 29 people were killed.

Both Raju and Sasikumar were now hailed as heroes for saving the lives of many others.

Nearly a week after the bombing, the road leading to Raju's house in the eastern city is flanked by posters and photographs of the 40-year-old father of two who blocked the attacker at the church door.