The bodies of 15 people, including six children, were discovered at the site of a fierce overnight gun battle on the east coast of Sri Lanka, a military spokesman said on Saturday, six days after suicide bombers killed more than 250 people.
The shootout between troops and suspected Islamist militants erupted on Friday evening in Sainthamaruthu in Ampara, to the south of the town of Batticaloa, site of one of the Easter Sunday blasts at three churches and four luxury hotels.
A police spokesman said that three suspected suicide bombers were among the 15 dead after the shoot out.
Military spokesman Sumith Atapattu said in a statement that as troops headed towards the safe house three explosions were triggered and gunfire began.
“Troops retaliated and raided the safe house where a large cache of explosives had been stored,” he said in a statement.
He said the militants were suspected members of the National Thowheed Jama’at (NTJ), which has been blamed for last Sunday’s attacks.
Earlier, detectives had found explosives, drones and an Islamic State group banner and robes used in a propaganda video recorded before the bombers detonated in crowded hotels and restaurants. The bombers filmed themselves swearing allegiance to Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (Isil) before they killed 253 Christians, hotels guests and staff.
The clashes on Friday came as the country remained on high alert and thousands of extra security forces had been drafted onto the streets.
Sri Lankan authorities also said the extremist preacher suspected of masterminding and leading the bombings died in the blast at the Shangri La hotel, where British victims died.