Sri Lanka bomber was rich businessman ‘brainwashed’ by younger brother
Sources recall how sons of spice tycoon became very close, and how the younger man led his sibling into his jihadist group
One of the ringleaders of the Sri-Lankan bomb attacks was the son of a spice tycoon who was “brainwashed” by his radical younger brother, this publication can disclose.
The first images emerged yesterday of Inshaf Ahmed Ibrahim, the suicide bomber and alleged mastermind of the atrocity that killed 359 people. Security services are understood to be examining his links to Britain after a source confirmed he had travelled to the UK frequently in recent years.
Ibrahim, 33, blew himself up at the Cinnamon Grand hotel restaurant just before 9am on Easter Sunday. Ibrahim’s younger brother, Ilham, also killed himself when he detonated a suicide bomb at the Shangri-La hotel, also in the capital Colombo, at almost exactly the same time. Their attacks claimed the lives of at least 41 foreigners.
As police raided their mansion in an exclusive part of Colombo hours later, Ilham’s pregnant wife, Fatima, also detonated a bomb, killing herself, her three children and three officers.
The brothers belonged to one of the wealthiest Muslim families in the capital. Their father is Mohamed Ibrahim, a prominent businessman who runs Colombo-based Ishana Exports, described on its website as the “largest exporter of spices from Sri Lanka since 2006”. The Ibrahim family had lived there for decades, neighbours said, with the father also being a leading light of the left-wing JVP party. He was led away by police for questioning on Tuesday.
Documents show that Inshaf acted as export director at his father’s spice firm, but also ran a copper factory. In 2016 he was pictured accepting a Presidential Export Award alongside his father at a ceremony in Colombo. Neighbours said he was married to the daughter of a wealthy jeweller, drove upmarket cars and wore Western fashions.
Inshaf was described as the business brains, while Ilham was said to be more aloof, awkward and more overtly religious. A source at the spice firm said Inshaf had been “totally normal” until about three years ago, when he began to fall under the influence of his younger brother. He then began arguing with less devout Muslim workers about their choice of dress.
“Recently he got so close to Ilham and became so deeply religious,” the source said. “Once he got so close to his brother he changed. His language became very isolating towards Muslims who lead a normal life. Ilham is one of the directors of the business but later he stayed at home. He was the one who brainwashed Inshaf and took him to their group.”
The source added that Inshaf had travelled widely in recent years, including to Britain. Indian intelligence sources told the First Post news website that a third son, Ijas, 30, was also reportedly asked about the attack.
Inshaf reportedly told his wife he was flying to Zambia on business on Friday, adding that she should “be strong”. Footage from the Cinnamon Grand emerged on Wednesday of Inshaf nervously shuffling back and forth before deciding to blow himself up.This publication tracked down the bomb factory to a rented bungalow on the outskirts of Colombo. Police described finding 240 empty packets of 1cm ball bearings, which had been used to pack the bombs to maximise the carnage, as well as cellphones and vehicle licence plates.At least four of the bombers had rented the safe house in the quiet Sarikkamulla suburb south of Colombo in the weeks before the blasts. Riyaz Mohammad, a distribution manager at a paint firm, said he had last seen the group’s white Suzuki minivan drive off from the safe house only 90 minutes before the blasts. When police showed him photographs of the bombers, he was able to confirm the Negombo church attacker had stayed at the house.
The men had often played loud music and had aroused suspicion by not being accompanied by wives, he said. They also failed to attend the mosque.
Police are understood to be investigating possible links to overseas jihadist networks and training camps on a remote compound near Wanathawilluwa, on the west coast. The compound, believed to be linked to the chief suspects in the bombings, the National Thowheeth Jama'ath group, was raided by police in January.
– © Telegraph Media Group Limited (2019)