Sri Lanka Suicide Bomber Studied In Australia, Authorities Say
One of the suicide bombers behind the devastating Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka is believed to have studied at university in Australia, authorities say.
Sri Lanka's Deputy Defence Minister told media the nine bombers were well-educated and had come from upper-middle class and financially stable families.
Ruwan Wijewardene said some of the attackers had studied in various countries and were "quite well-educated people" holding university degrees.
Responding to reports one of the bombers had studied in the UK, he said authorities believed the man had studied there before undertaking his post-graduate degree in Australia.
After finishing his studies in Australia, authorities believe he relocated to Sri Lanka.
READ MORE: Sri Lanka Bombings Death Toll Rises To 359
Wijewardene declined to reveal much on the identities of the bombers but said eight of them had been identified, and that one was a woman.
He suggested they were a part of a splinter group, whose leader was the suicide bomber who killed himself and dozens of others inside the Shangri La hotel in Colombo on Easter Sunday.
He earlier told parliament that two Sri Lankan Islamist groups -- the National Thawheed Jama’ut and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim -- were responsible for the series of blasts targeting churches and hotels in the capital.
More than 60 people have now been arrested in connection to the attacks, which killed 359 people and injured hundreds more.
Wijewardene said authorities were still investigating whether the attacks had any links to international organisations, despite ISIS earlier on Tuesday claiming responsibility.
ISIS named what it said were seven attackers who carried out the attacks, but gave no further evidence to support its claim of responsibility.
Wijewardene also confirmed that Sri Lankan intelligence officials believed the attacks were in retaliation over the Christchurch terror attack, which saw 50 worshippers massacred inside two mosques in March.
"According to their assessment, they believe this was a motivational factor for these people," Wijewardene told media.
Several months ago, the group believed responsible for the attack had defaced Buddhist statues and attacked a temple and church in Sri Lanka, "but not to this magnitude", Wijewardene said.
"What we have found out is that there have been two safe houses... it would have been easy for them to plan out these attacks," he said.
"Sri Lanka is not a vast country ... I believe this group has been at some point thinking of making some kind of attack, but I believe, according to the agency, that the Christchurch incident will have motivated them to carry it out on Easter Sunday."
It comes after New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Wednesday that her government was not aware of any intelligence suggesting that the devastating attack on Sri Lanka was in retaliation for Christchurch.
“We haven’t received anything officially nor have we received any intelligence reports that corroborate what has been said in Sri Lanka,” Ardern told reporters at a press conference in Auckland.
“Sri Lanka will be in the very early stages of its investigations. So we are simply stepping back and allowing them to undertake those, but we have nothing at this stage to corroborate what is being said,” she added.
Earlier on Wednesday, there were fresh fears of another explosion outside a cinema in Colombo.
But Wijewardene confirmed it was a controlled explosion on a suspicious motorbike carried out by authorities.