Father of suspected bombers arrested; Colombo on edge

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — The father of two of the suspected suicide bombers was arrested on suspicion of aiding his sons yesterday, according to Sri Lanka’s former navy chief, as investigators continued to comb his Colombo mansion for evidence of the attacks that killed 359 people.

Jayanath Colombage, now a counterterrorism expert at the Pathfinder Foundation, confirmed the arrest to The Associated Press. He said it was unclear whether the father or his home, where an explosion last Sunday killed three police officers, had been under surveillance ahead of the attacks.

Sri Lankan police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera did not answer repeated calls and messages seeking comment, but earlier said 58 people had been detained since the bombings.

The mansion was the site of a ninth explosion last Sunday, which one of the suspects apparently detonated to ward off police.

Sri Lanka’s capital remained jittery yesterday as authorities set off more controlled detonations of suspicious items, soldiers stopped and searched vehicles, and some businesses advised staff to stay indoors, four days after the string of suicide bombings in and around Colombo that officials say were conducted by local extremists.

Sri Lankan navy soldiers perform security checks on motorists at a road in Colombo, Sri Lanka. – AP

John Keells Holdings, the parent company of the Cinnamon Grand hotel, one of the sites stricken in the Easter Sunday bombings, told employees at its various hotel properties to stay inside “further to the communications we have received” in an email shared with the AP.

It was not immediately clear where the warning originated, and a police spokesman did not respond to several calls and messages.

The streets around Dematagoda, a wealthy Colombo neighbourhood where officials say many of the bombing suspects lived, were quiet yesterday.

Investigators continued to comb through the mansion of the father of two of the suspects with nine front balconies and a white BMW parked out front.

In a house on the other side of a quiet, leafy lane full of large houses, a 14-year-old boy said he used to ride bicycles and play football with one of the suspect’s children, a 10-year-old boy who frequently visited his relatives there, and that the other children at the house were too young to play outside. He said his entire house shook when the bomb went off.

Sri Lankan police continued their search for additional explosives in and outside of Colombo, detonating a suspicious item in a garbage dump in Pugoda, about 35 kilometres east of the capital.