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15 dead after explosions and shootout erupt during raid in Sri Lanka

Posted at 11:32 AM, Apr 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-27 13:32:24-04

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka –  A series of explosions followed by a shootout between Sri Lanka’s military and suspected Islamist militants erupted overnight, less than a week after suicide bombers unleashed a series of devastating attacks that killed more than 250 people on Easter Sunday.

Special forces first raided a warehouse and discovered a large cache of bomb-making equipment, including sticks of dynamite, detonator cable ball bearings and switches, CBS News’ Elizabeth Palmer reports. They also found an ISIS flag. Police believe the site is where the Easter Sunday bombers may have made a video pledging allegiance to ISIS.

A second raid in eastern Sri Lanka turned into a shootout with suspected extremists, who detonated three bombs inside a house, according to authorities. Officials say 15 people were killed including three women and six children, presumed to be family members of the extremists.

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said some of the dead likely were militants who blew themselves up in suicide bombings.

The cruelty of last Sunday’s hotel and church bombings has traumatized people on the island off the southern coast of India, and the recent raid that apparently shows extremists had planned further attacks is bound to amp up widespread fear.

“People are shocked, because this came years after the war ended, and after all these years, we have been living in peace,” said 36-year-old Pradeep Kumara, a clerk at a private company, referring to Sri Lanka’s long civil war that ended in 2009. “This has disrupted our work, and our ordinary and normal life. We don’t want to go back to that troublesome period.”

Officials from the police to the prime minister say militants remain on the loose and have access to explosives. That has led to increased security at shrines, churches, temples and mosques across the multi-ethnic country of 21 million.

Religious leaders have urged the faithful to stay home, fearing houses of worship are still targets.