Sri Lanka suicide bombers were from wealthy families, minister reveals

24 April 2019, 05:58 | Updated: 24 April 2019, 14:22

The suicide bombers in Sri Lanka's Easter Sunday attacks were from wealthy families and one studied in the UK, it has been revealed.

Eight Britons were among the 359 people who died in a series of blasts targeting churches and hotels, with more than 500 injured.

At a news conference this morning, the country's deputy defence minister said: "We believe one of the suicide bombers studied in the UK and then maybe later on did his postgraduate in Australia, before coming back to settle in Sri Lanka."

Ruwan Wijewardene added that all of the attackers were well educated and "financially independent".

During the briefing, it was also revealed that:

:: There were nine suicide bombers - eight of whom have been identified

:: One of the bombers was a woman, who killed herself as police raided her home

:: 60 people have been arrested - all of whom are Sri Lankan nationals

:: 32 people are still in custody

The news conference came hours after a suspect motorbike in Colombo was destroyed by police in a controlled explosion.

On Tuesday, Sri Lanka's prime minister admitted intelligence agencies had information that could have stopped the attacks if it had been passed on correctly.

Police have been investigating whether warnings of attacks were ignored or missed, and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe confirmed there was a "breakdown of communication".

The prime minister added: "Some of the suspects are on the run.

"Some of those suspects are armed and dangerous. There are still explosives and militants out there and the police are looking for them."

The bomber who attacked the Shangri-La hotel has been identified by police as Insan Seelavan, a factory owner.

Meanwhile, police say a female bomber blew herself up while police raided a home in a Colombo suburb, causing the concrete floor of the two-storey building to come crashing down, killing three police officers.

The woman is thought to be the wife of one of the bombers. She blew herself up at her father-in-law's home. He has been taken into custody.

It is reported that the man's two sons were also bombers.

At a separate news conference this morning, US ambassador Alaina Teplitz said "clearly there was some failure in the system", adding she had "no prior knowledge" of a threat.

The leader of Sri Lanka's parliament, Lakshman Kiriella, has claimed that senior officials deliberately withheld intelligence about the potential for attacks.

He said: "Some top intelligence officials hid the intelligence information purposefully.

"Information was there, but the top brass security officials did not take appropriate actions.

"Somebody is controlling these top intelligence officials... the Security Council is doing politics. We need to investigate into this."