Sons of wealthy Sri Lankan spice empire reportedly among suicide bombers

Inshaf Ahmed and Ilham Ahmed Ibrahim are said to be among those who carried out deadly attacks in Colombo last weekend.
Sons of wealthy Sri Lankan spice empire reportedly among suicide bombers

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One of the most prominent families in Sri Lanka now finds itself at the center of ongoing investigations into the horrific bombings on Easter Sunday that killed about 250 people and injured several hundred more.

Inshaf Ahmed Ibrahim and Ilham Ahmed Ibrahim, sons of a Sri Lankan spice tycoon, were among the suicide bombers who killed themselves in a series of attacks at churches and hotels in the island nation on Sunday, unnamed sources told CNN. The brothers' father, Mohamed Ibrahim, was reportedly detained after the attacks, along with his third son, Ijas Ahmed Ibrahim, but he hasn’t been charged, according to reports.


Mohamed Ibrahim is the founder of Ishana Exports, one of the larger spice exporters in Sri Lanka, according to a business directory of spice exporters.

Sri Lankan authorities have not officially named the Ibrahim family in connection with the attacks, nor have they revealed the identities of any of the estimated seven suicide bombers. Still, the family's alleged ties to ongoing investigations mark a dramatic new turn for the investigations into the Sunday attacks. The government has taken nearly 80 people into custody, according to Al Jazeera.

Inshaf, a 33-year-old owner of a copper factory, walked into the breakfast buffet area at the five-star Cinnamon Grand hotel in Colombo Sunday and blew himself up, according to the Indian news site Firstpost. Ilham, 31, did the same at the Shangri-La Colombo.

Ilham is believed to be connected to the National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ), a little known, local Islamic extremist group that’s been tied to the bombings, according to Reuters. He was arrested prior to Sunday’s deadly attacks and released, anonymous sources told CNN, although it’s not clear when or for what reason. Inshaf was reportedly more moderate than his brother, and was married to the daughter of another prominent wealthy family.

How deeply the family was connected to the attack is still unclear, primarily because the Sri Lankan government has yet to release the names of the suicide bombers involved. There have been conflicting reports about how many members of the family died in the bombings.


It’s possible another Ibrahim child died in the attacks; Indian outlet NDTV reported the Shangri-La bomber’s sister and wife were killed Sunday without naming any of the deceased, and Australian news site reported only Mohamed Ibrahim’s “daughter-in-law blew herself up” at a Colombo home. Reuters reported Ilham’s wife and three children died, citing anonymous sources.

Sri Lankan officials believe that small domestic-terrorist cells such as NTJ received outside help from a multinational terrorist organization but has yet to provide conclusive links. The Islamic State group, meanwhile, has claimed responsibility for the attacks, and some terrorism experts say it seems credible.

The Sri Lankan government is under intense pressure for its failures to act on intelligence leading up to the Sunday bombings. Officials were reportedly warned by U.S. and Indian authorities that extremist groups were threatening churches, but did not act on the intelligence. The government has since apologized and pledged to overhaul its security systems to prevent a future attack.

For the fifth straight night, the country is under an island-wide curfew from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.

Cover: A Sri Lankan police officer patrols out side a mosque in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Wednesday, April 24, 2019. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that investigators were still determining the extent of the bombers' foreign links. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)