COLOMBO (Reuters) – Fathima Fazla, a Sri Lankan housewife, thought her wealthy neighbors in the big three-story house on the other side of the street were the rich celebrities of her modest suburb of Colombo. She did not know how bad they would become.
Members of the security forces stand guard near the Saint Anthony of Colombo Shrine, three days after a series of suicide bombings against churches and luxury hotels across the island on Easter Sunday, in Sri Lanka, April 24, 2019. REUTERS / Dinuka Liyanawatte
Two brothers living in the White House of Mahawela Gardens became key players in the suicide bombings on Easter Sunday, killing more than 350 people and stunning an island state with a decade of relative peace.
The militant group of the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the coordinated attacks on three churches and four hotels.
Inshaf Ibrahim, a 33-year-old copper factory producer, blew up his explosive device at the busy breakfast buffet of the Shangri-La luxury hotel, according to a source close to the family. .
When the police went later in the day to search the family's home, his younger brother, Ilham Ibrahim, detonated a bomb that killed him, his wife and the couple's three children, said source to Reuters, asking for anonymity for fear of reprisals.
"They seemed like good people," Fazla told Reuters from his dilapidated home in front of the Ibrahim family's home. She is now cordoned off with a crime scene recording tape and run by police.
The names of the brothers have also been reported in the local media. The Sri Lankan authorities did not reveal the identity of any of the suicide bombers and the police did not respond to the request for comment.
Brother's father, Mohamed Ibrahim, was arrested while police were investigating the perpetrators, the police said. Ibrahim, a wealthy spice merchant and pillar of business, had six sons and three daughters. He was admired by many who knew him.
"He was famous in the area for helping the poor with food and money. It's unthinkable that her children could do it, "said Fazla, looking affectionately at her two young daughters. "Because of what they did, all Muslims are treated as suspects."
Ilham Ibrahim, 31, has openly expressed his extremist ideologies and has been involved in meetings of the national Thowheed Jamath group, a local Islamist group suspected of planning attacks, according to a source close to the family.
Her entrepreneurial brother, Inshaf, was apparently more moderate in her ideas and was known to be generous with donations to her staff and local households in trouble, the source said. Inshaf was married to a daughter of a wealthy jewelry maker and faced no money problem.
"I was shocked – we never thought they were that kind of people," said Sanjeewa Jayasinghe, a 38-year-old network cabling engineer, who works next to the house. of the Ibrahim family.
Sunday morning's attacks have shattered the relative calm that had prevailed in Sri Lanka's Buddhist majority since the civil war against a majority of separatists of Hindu and Tamil origin who ended 10 years ago, and feared a return to sectarian violence.
Although the Ibrahim brothers are insulted in much of the country for plunging Sri Lanka into disarray, they will be missed by some of the community members who helped them.
"He was nice, unlike a lot of bosses. I'm happy to work for him, "said Sarowar, a Bangladeshi worker at the abandoned copper factory in Inshaf, on the outskirts of Colombo. "He's gone, what am I doing now?"
Report by Joe Brock, Shihar Aneez and Ranga Sirilal; Written by Joe Brock; Edited by John Chalmers and Alex Richardson