Sri Lankan police on Sunday discovered a 10-acre camp in the eastern town of Kattankudy, where militants linked to the deadly Easter attacks are believed to have practiced shooting and bomb-making.
The walled terrain is nestled in a poor residential area on the outskirts of the home town of Zahran Hashim, who is believed to have been a key player in plotting the April 21 attacks.
Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack that killed more than 250 people and nearly 500 wounded in the attacks by militants on churches and hotels across the Indian Ocean island on April 21.
The narrow, sandy plot is dotted with a cinderblock four-storey watchtower, as well as mango trees, a chicken coop and a goat shed.
“They wanted to show this place was normal. If someone comes to see, it looks like a farm. But what they were doing is terrorism,” said a senior police officer in the Batticaloa area.
Police found bullet holes in the wall on one side of the grounds, as well as long tubes suspected of holding bombs, the officer said.
Two owners of the plot of land have been arrested, the officer said.
Although Islamic State gave no evidence to back up its claim, Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena, on Saturday said that he believed the group orchestrated the attacks that plunged Sri Lanka in a nightmare.
The government has warned that the militants were plotting more attacks, and police and military were conducting a security sweep of schools ahead of the staggered re-opening of state institutions on Monday.
Zion would need more repairs before the church could be used again. There were also no services at St Sebastian’s Church in Negambo, where at least 102 people perished.
But a mass was held behind closed doors at St. Anthony’s Church in Colombo, the third church bombed that day.
Fourteen children, many of whom were having breakfast in the church portico, were killed and several dozen worshippers in this largely low-income congregation were wounded, according to Zion church officials.