Shangri La hotel restaurant in Colombo 20190426
A man with a backpack walks in Shangri La hotel restaurant in Colombo, Sri Lanka, April 21, 2019 in this screen grab taken from a CCTV footage released on April 24, 2019. Image Credit: SIRASA TV via REUTERS

COLOMBO: Zahran Hashim, an Islamist extremist believed to have played a key role in Sri Lanka's deadly Easter terror bombings, died in an attack on a Colombo hotel, the country's president confirmed Friday.

"What intelligence agencies have told me is that Zahran was killed during the Shangri-La attack," President Maithripala Sirisena told reporters, referring to Zahran Hashim, leader of a local extremist group.

He added that Hashim led the attack against the high-end hotel and was accompanied by a second bomber, identified only as "Ilham".

He said the information came from military intelligence and was based in part on CCTV footage recovered from the scene.

Hashim appeared in a video released by the Daesh group after they claimed the bombings, but his whereabouts after the blasts were not immediately clear.

More than 250 people were killed in the attacks against three churches and three hotels. A fourth planned attack on a hotel failed.

Security forces had been on a desperate hunt for Hashim, believed to be around 40, after the government named the group he led - the National Thowheeth Jama'ath - as its prime suspect.

His appearance in the Daesh video, where he is seen leading a group of seven others in a pledge of allegiance to Daesh chief Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, only heightened fears about the radical.

He was a relative unknown before the attacks, though local Muslim leaders say they had reported him on more than one occasion to authorities for his extremist views and behaviour.

Sri Lanka police chief resigns over bombings 

Sri Lanka's top police official, Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara, has resigned over failures that led to the deadly Easter bomb attacks, Sri Lankan president said Friday.

"The IGP has resigned. He has sent his resignation to the acting defence secretary. I'll nominate a new IGP soon," President Maithripala Sirisena told reporters.

Sirisena's nominee has to be confirmed by a constitutional council.

The resignation comes after the country's top defence ministry official, defence secretary Hemasiri Fernando resigned on Thursday.

Hashim's sister deplores bloodbath

The sister of a man believed to the mastermind behind the Easter Sunday carnage in Sri Lanka is furious with her brother for causing so much pain and suffering to others.

Mohammad Hashim Madaniya has found out that her brother, Zahran Hashim, is the alleged ringleader of a group of suicide bombers who attacked churches and hotels on Sunday, killing more than 350 people, media reports say.

The young mother of two, who lives in the eastern town of Kattankudy, says she is horrified by what he has done and fears what could happen next, the BBC reported.

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The police have interviewed her but she is not being treated as a suspect.

Hashim, said to be around 40 years, was the eldest of five siblings. The sister insists she has had no contact with her brother since 2017, when he went underground after police tried to arrest him over violence between two Muslim groups.

Since Sunday's bloodbath, a video has emerged in which a man believed to be Zahran Hashim appears pledging allegiance to the leader of Daesh Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi.

"I came to know about his activities only through the media. I never thought, even for a moment, that he would do such a thing," says Madaniya.

"I strongly deplore what he has done. Even if he is my brother, I cannot accept this. I don't care about him any more."

According to the Daily Mirror, her brother was a radical Islamist preacher and came to notice some years ago after he posted several videos on YouTube and other social media platforms denouncing non-believers.

The videos triggered concern among other Muslims, some of whom took up the matter with Sri Lankan authorities but were ignored.

Media reports say that the man disappeared with other members of his family just before the Easter Sunday attacks. It is not clear if he is in hiding or has left Sri Lanka.

Kattankudy is located close to Batticaloa town where the Zion Church was one of the three churches -- one each in Colombo and Negombo -- was bombed on Easter Sunday. At least 28 people were killed in Batticaloa.