COLOMBO, April 27 - Six children and three women were among 15 people killed when militants linked to the Easter Sunday bombings opened fire and blew themselves up during a fierce gun battle with security forces in Sri Lanka�s Eastern province, police said on Saturday.
The shootout occurred as the security forces continued their hunt for members of the National Thowheeth Jamaath (NTJ), the local terror outfit behind the April 21 coordinated blasts in which 253 people were killed and over 500 injured.
The Special Task Force and army troops, following a tip-off, raided a house in Kalmunai city, about 360 km from Colombo, on Friday night, leading to the heavy exchange of fire with the armed group. As the heavily-armed men opened fire on troops, a civilian caught in the middle got killed.
As the clashes intensified, three men are believed to have set off explosives. �A total of 15 bodies were recovered � six men, three women and six children. At least four suspected suicide bombers are dead and three others, who were injured, are in hospital,� a police spokesperson said.
A huge cache of explosives was also recovered from the spot. �Officials have recovered detonators, suicide kits, army uniforms and ISIS flags,� an army officer said.
Meanwhile, the police said that curfew imposed in the Muslim-majority areas of Kalmunai, Chavalakade and Sammanthurai would continue until further notice.
At least 76 people have been arrested by police in connection with the attack so far. Twenty persons were arrested in the last 24 hours.
At the security council meeting held last night, it was decided that search operations to crack down on extremist terrorism must continue until the threat is completely eliminated. � PTI