'A different man': Sister says Sri Lanka suicide bomber changed in Australia

One of the Sri Lankan bombers came back from Australia after his post-graduate studies a changed man, his sister says.

Abdul Lathief Jameel Mohamed studied at Swinburne University in Melbourne between 2009 and 2013, The Australian reported.

Mohamed, suspected to be one of the ringleaders of the atrocity in Sri Lanka, was investigated by the Joint Counter Terrorism Team in 2014 because of his links to several suspects including Neil Prakash, the paper says.

Samsul Hidaya, one of Mohamed's sisters, told the Daily Mail her brother became "a different man" in Australia and became withdrawn and intense.

St. Sebastian's Church after it was bombed. Source: AP
St. Sebastian's Church after it was bombed. Source: AP

"My brother became deeply, deeply religious while he was in Australia," Ms Hidaya told the Daily Mail.

"He was normal when he went to study in Britain, and normal when he came back. But after he did his postgraduate in Australia, he came back to Sri Lanka a different man.

"He had a long beard and had lost his sense of humour. He became serious and withdrawn and would not even smile at anyone he didn't know, let alone laugh."

Mohamed died when he detonated his suicide bomb on Easter Sunday near the New Tropical Inn guesthouse in Colombo, killing two people.

Grim truth behind falling death toll

Sri Lankan officials revised the death toll from Easter Sunday bombings down by about 100 on Thursday, blaming the difficulty in identifying body parts at bomb scenes for the earlier inaccurate number.

The new official figure was 253, down from an earlier 359, Deputy Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene said.

He blamed inaccurate data provided by morgues for the discrepancy.

A priest conducts religious rituals during a mass burial for Easter Sunday bomb blast victims in Negombo, Sri Lanka, Wednesday, April 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)
A priest conducts religious rituals during a mass burial for Easter Sunday bomb blast victims in Negombo. Source: AP

Anil Jasinghe, the director general of Sri Lanka's health services, told Reuters any figure was an estimate due to the difficulty in identifying the “many” body parts.

"It could be 250 or 260. I can't exactly say,” he said.

“There are so many body parts and it is difficult to give a precise figure."

The suicide bomb attacks on three churches and four hotels have exposed an intelligence failure, with accusations that warnings had not been acted on and feuds at the top levels of government had undermined security cooperation.

Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando resigned over the failure to prevent the attacks, although he insisted on Thursday the authorities had been acting in response to intelligence tips from India warning of imminent attacks.

Sri Lankan Army soldiers secure the area around St Anthony's Shrine after a blast in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sunday, April 21, 2019. A Sri Lanka hospital spokesman says several blasts on Easter Sunday have killed dozens of people. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)
Sri Lankan Army soldiers outside St Anthony's Shrine following the attacks. Source: AP

"We were working on that. All those agencies were working on that," Mr Fernando told Reuters.

He said he had resigned to take responsibility for institutions he ran, but said there had been no failure on his part.

Police issued names and photographs of four men and three women wanted in connection with the attacks as bomb scares and security sweeps kept the country on edge.

Most of the victims were Sri Lankans, although authorities have said at least 38 foreigners, including two Australians, were also killed – many tourists sitting to breakfast at top-end hotels when the bombers struck.

Britain on Thursday warned its nationals to avoid the country unless it was absolutely necessary as there could be more attacks.

With Reuters and AAP

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