Chilling footage has emerged of a man believed to be a Sri Lanka bomber patting a little girl on the head before he enters a church.
The footage, obtained by US news outlet CNN, shows a man with a backpack outside of St Sebastian’s Church before the explosion on Sunday.
The television channel reported the man was one of the bombers.
Before he enters the church, the suspected bomber walks past a man with a little girl and pats her before he continues walking.
It is believed this backpack-wearing man is the same suspect who was making his way through crowds outside the church in CCTV shared by local media TV9 on Tuesday.
Sri Lanka police told CNN it would not comment on the video until the conclusion of its investigation.
St Sebastian’s Church was one of three targeted on Sunday along with three hotels.
Witness Dilip Fernando said he and his wife arrived at the church at 7.30am, but it was so busy they decided to go elsewhere for mass.
"At the end of the mass they saw one young man go into the church in with a heavy bag," Mr Fernando said.
"He touched my granddaughter's head on the way past. It was the bomber."
The family wondered why he was entering the church with mass nearly over, Mr Fernando said, adding the man had looked to be about 30 and "very young and innocent", according to his relatives.
It is not clear if Mr Fernando’s granddaughter is the child seen in the video aired by CNN.
Death tolls rises
The death toll rose to 321 on Tuesday as the Islamic State group claimed responsibility and released images that purported to show the attackers.
Sri Lanka’s prime minister warned several suspects armed with explosives were still at large.
Another top government official said the suicide bombings at the churches, hotels and other sites were carried out by Islamic fundamentalists in apparent retaliation for the New Zealand mosque massacres in March.
The Islamic State group, which has lost all the territory it once held in Iraq and Syria, has made a series of unsupported claims of responsibility and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said investigators were still determining the extent of the bombers’ foreign links.
Sri Lankan authorities have blamed the attacks on National Towheed Jamaar, a little-known Islamic extremist group in the island nation.
Its leader, alternately known as Mohammed Zahran or Zahran Hashmi, became known to Muslim leaders three years ago for his incendiary speeches online.
The IS group’s Aamaq news agency released an image purported to show the leader of the attackers, standing amid seven others whose faces are covered.
The group did not provide any other evidence for its claim and the identities of those depicted in the image were not independently verified.
Meanwhile, in an address to Parliament, Ruwan Wijewardene – the state minister of defence – said “weakness” within Sri Lanka’s security apparatus led to the failure to prevent the nine bombings.
“By now it has been established that the intelligence units were aware of this attack and a group of responsible people were informed about the impending attack,” Mr Wijewardene said.
“However, this information has been circulated among only a few officials.”
In a live address to the nation late on Tuesday (local time), Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena said he also was kept in the dark on the intelligence about the planned attacks.
He vowed to “take stern action” against the officials who failed to share the information.
Mr Sirisena also pledged “a complete restructuring” of the security forces.
Mr Wijewardene said the government had evidence the bombings were carried out “by an Islamic fundamentalist group” in retaliation for the March 15 mosque shootings in Christchurch that killed 50 people.
But he did not disclose what the evidence was.
– with Reuters
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