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IS hand in Lanka blasts? Pics of 3 suicide bombers appear online

HIGHLIGHTS
Pro-IS Telegram channels on Monday released pictures of three of the alleged suicide bombers involved in the Easter serial blasts in Sri Lanka
NTJ operative Zahran Hashin identified as one of the suicide bombers in the pictures, lending credibility to the IS link suspicion

In an indication of the Islamic State terror group’s involvement in Sunday’s blasts in Sri Lanka that claimed nearly 300 lives, a few pro-IS Telegram channels on Monday released pictures of three of the alleged suicide bombers with the IS flag as the backdrop.

The channels identified the trio as Abul Barra, Abul Mukhtar and Abu Ubaida. While intelligence agencies are still waiting for any word from IS mouthpieces like Amaq, a source said these pictures had some element of credibility as one of them is that of National Tawheed Jamaat (NTJ) operative Zahran Hashin who was identified as one of the suicide bombers (Abu Ubaida).
Ubaida is the only one seen without a mask in the photographs and the agencies are still verifying the real identities of the other two.

“The given names are typical of how IS identifies its Inghemasis (fighters) after they pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. But Ubaida figuring in these pictures, which have the same background, does indicate that NTJ had direct affiliation with IS. The trio is also seen giving the one finger salute, a sign popular with IS operatives,” an intelligence officer said on Monday.

The intelligence network also finds a possible IS connection as the bombings come barely a month after IS spokesperson Abu Hassan al-Mujahir released an audio speech exhorting Muslims to avenge the New Zealand mosque attack in which 50 people were killed by an armed gunman. In the 44-minute long speech, Mujahir was heard saying that the massacre should wake up those who were fooled and should incite the supporters of the Caliphate to avenge their religion.

Subsequently, agencies had intercepted these audio messages on closed online groups and chat platforms where IS-inspired operatives were discussing about carrying out attacks on places of worship in their respective countries. An alert was issued in cities in India to step up security at places of worship, especially churches.
The massive scale of the bombings also point to IS as it would have been virtually impossible for a local outfit in Sri Lanka to carry out such near simultaneous attacks. “NTJ, which had barely managed to deface Buddhist statues in the past, could not have carried out these blasts on their own.
The entire island country, it seems, was wired. The explosives, detonators and other material needed to carry out bombings on such a scale could have been managed only with support from an international terror outfit,” said an officer from an anti-terror unit.

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