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15 killed in Lanka gun battle; 10 more held (2nd Lead)


IANS Colombo
Fifteen people were killed in a gun battle between the government forces and an armed group in Kalmunai city of Sri Lanka, authorities said on Saturday. Around 70 suspected suicide bombers were estimated to be at large, they said.
A military official told Xinhua news agency terrorists opened fire when the troops were attempting to raid a house, used by the armed group affiliated to an Islamic terrorist organisation. Some suicide bombers later blew themselves up inside the house.
Bodies of three men, three women and six children were retrieved from the house, the Daily Mirror reported. Three more bodies of suspected suicide bombers were recovered from outside the house.
Operations are on to find more suspected terrorists hiding in nearby areas and the entire area remains cordoned off. The curfew, imposed on Friday night, in Kalmunai and its surrounding areas continues.
On Friday evening, the security forces claimed to have recovered flags belonging to the Islamic State, literature and some other objects from a house in the Ampara district, which is said to be the terrorist organisation's place for oath-taking.
On Friday, 10 people were arrested from across the country bringing the number detained since the Easter Sunday bombings to 80.
Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has said authorities are now focused on rounding up supporters and sympathisers of the terrorist cell that carried out the string of bombings that killed 253 people and injured hundreds more, the Guardian reported.
Of the 70 estimated to be at large, "some are capable of exploding themselves," he said.
Investigators are unsure why they have not done so yet and speculate that further attacks may have been foiled by the heavy police response to the first blasts last Sunday, or that the cell may have expected more people to come forward to sacrifice themselves.

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First Published: Apr 27 2019 | 5:16 PM IST

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