Sri Lankan police on Thursday said that they have not received any “evidence” to confirm the media reports that the wife of one of the Easter suicide bombers may have fled to India to avoid arrest.
Police spokesman Jaliya Senaratne made the comments while responding to questions on the media reports that the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings was told that Pulasthini Rajendran alias Sarah, the wife of bomber Achchi Mohammdu Mohammadu Hasthun, had fled to India by sea in September last.
“We have detained two people… but we have not received any acceptable evidence that the person had fled the country,” Senaratne said.
On April 21, 2019, nine suicide bombers belonging to the local extremist group National Thawheed Jamaat (NTJ) linked to Islamic State carried out a series of blasts that tore through three churches and as many luxury hotels in Sri Lanka, killing 258 people, including 11 Indians, and injuring over 500 on the Easter Sunday. Hasthun blew himself up at St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo.
Sri Lankan police have arrested over 200 suspects in connection with the bombings.
Chief Inspector Arjuna Maheenkanda told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) that the person who assisted her to flee had been arrested.
Maheenkanda said that in October 2019, he was assigned to investigate the attacks carried out by the NTJ.
He told the PCoI that on 6 July, 2020, he received a tip-off from an informant that Sarah, who was in the NTJ hideout in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, had escaped and was hiding in Mankadu in the eastern town of Batticaloa.
“When we were in Batticaloa, we met another person who had seen a woman, whom he believed was Sarah. This informant said he had seen a cab parked along Batticaloa-Kalmunai main road, near Beach Road, Mankadu area around 3 am in September 2019.
“He felt suspicious and slowed down. Then he saw Sarah and two other men walking towards the main road. There was a street light there and that’s how the informant saw them. This informant had lived near Sarah’s house for a long time. He also saw that she got into the back seat of the cab parked near the road,” Maheenkenda told the PCoI.
Maheenkanda said that there was information that Sarah had fled to India by boat from the Mannar area. The husband of Sarah’s aunt and his brother had helped her escape.
“One of the suspects is currently in custody. The other person has gone abroad. Investigations have also revealed that a person in the Mannar area helped her flee,” the officer said.
The blasts targeted St Anthony’s Church in Colombo, St Sebastian’s Church in the western coastal town of Negombo, and a church in the eastern town of Batticaloa when the Easter Sunday mass was in progress.
Three explosions were reported from three five-star hotels – the Shangri-La, the Cinnamon Grand, and the Kingsbury in Colombo.