India arrests man 'linked to Easter Sunday bomber'

India arrests man 'linked to Easter Sunday bomber'
Officials inspect the damaged St. Sebastian's Church after multiple explosions targeting churches and hotels across Sri Lanka on April 21, 2019 in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka.Image copyright Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Image caption The Sri Lanka bombings killed more than 250 people on Easter Sunday

Indian anti-terrorism investigators have arrested a man with alleged links to the suicide bomber who planned Sri Lanka's deadly Easter Sunday attacks.

Investigators said Mohammad Azharuddin, 32, was friends on Facebook with Zahran Hashim, the alleged ringleader of the attacks, claimed by Islamic State (IS).

The arrest followed raids on a suspected IS militant cell in the southern Indian city of Coimbatore.

The Sri Lanka bombings killed more than 250 people and wounded 500 others.

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Five other men have been detained for questioning, said India's National Investigative Agency (NIA), which conducted the raids and made the arrest.

It registered a case against Mr Azharuddin and the others on 30 May, according to a press statement.

State intelligence and local police are now conducting further raids in Ukkadam, a neighbourhood in Coimbatore, where officials say three of the suspects, including Mr Azharuddin, live.

Federal investigators accuse all six suspects of "propagating" IS ideology and attempting to recruit "vulnerable youth" to carry out attacks in southern India, including Tamil Nadu, the state where Coimbatore is located.

Image caption Zahran Hashim has been identified as the ringleader of the bombers

There's growing concern about IS cells worldwide, after US-backed forces drove the group out of its self-styled caliphate in Syria and Iraq earlier this year.

The Sri Lankan authorities deny reports they failed to act on warnings from US and Indian intelligence about a possible threat weeks before the bombings.

The NIA has conducted a series of searches in southern India since April in connection with suspected IS militant cells.

In April the NIA arrested a man in southern Kerala state who it said had been planning a suicide attack.

The agency has also arrested more than a dozen people from an "IS-inspired group" accused of planning to launch attacks in Delhi, Reuters reports.

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