Credit: AP Photo/Achala Upendra
Sixteen people including six children were killed in Sri Lanka on Friday when suicide Islamists blew themselves up in a raid, police report.
Sri Lankan security forces were raiding a house in search of suspects connected with the Easter suicide bombings when militants opened fire and set off explosives.
The gun battle between troops and the suspected Islamists erupted in Sainthamaruthu in Ampara, which is about 230 miles (370km) from the capital, Colombo.
“Troops retaliated and raided the safe house where a large cache of explosives had been stored,” said a police spokesman in a statement.
According to him, three of the suspected bombers are among the sixteen dead after the shootout.
The militants are said to be part of the National Thowheed Jama’at (NTJ), a jihadist group blamed for last Sunday’s attacks in which more than 250 people were killed and about 500 were left injured.
Among the killed on Friday was a woman, who was passing in a rickshaw at the time of the raid.
A child and a woman survived the explosion at the house, but were critically injured and hospitalized, said Ruwan Sunasekara, a police spokesman.
Footage circulating online after the shooting showed a house strewn with rubble and bodies being picked over by the police.
According to Aliyar Mohamed, who lives opposite the house in which the explosives were detonated, the building was rented to people from Kattankudy.
‘Four days after they rented the place, more than two people started moving in. The landlord and the neighbours became suspicious when a larger crowd moved in and they started moving boxes in and out of the house in a van,’ said Mohamed Saleem, President of Jamiathul Ulema, a governing Muslim body.
Because of the clashes, more than 600 Muslims fled the area and took shelter in a school, residents said.
Around the time of the shooting, troops raided another house, in which they found Islamic State flags, suicide kits, military uniforms, explosives and a drone.
‘Every household in the country will be checked,’ said President Maithripala Sirisena in a meeting on Friday. ‘The lists of permanent residents of every house will be established to ensure no unknown persons could live anywhere.’
The attacks in Sri Lanka are the deadliest act of violence since the end of the 26-year civil war in 2009 when between 70,000 and 80,000 people were killed.
The government urged Muslims to stay at home for Friday prayers.