Fifth Grader Among Americans Killed in Easter Sunday Bombings in Sri Lanka

By Zachary Stieber

A fifth grade Washington student has been identified as one of the Americans killed in suicide bombings in Sri Lanka on April 21.

Kieran Shafritz de Zoysa, a student at Sidwell Friends School, lost his life in the bombings, officials at the school said.

In a letter to families of students, the officials wrote that de Zoysa was on a leave of absence from the school, living and studying in Sri Lanka.

“We learned today that Kieran died in the bombings in Sri Lanka on Easter,” the letter stated. “This is obviously an unexpected tragedy for his family and for his greater community.”

“Kieran was passionate about learning, he adored his friends, and he was incredibly excited about returning to Sidwell Friends this coming school year,” officials added.

“We are beyond sorry not to get the opportunity to welcome Kieran to the middle school.”

Alex Arrow, Kieran’s father, said that his boy had a brilliant mind and would have helped the world.

“I don’t know what is in the mind of a terrorist, but I’m sure they do not know what they took, they do not know what they took from the world,” Arrow told KTNV. “They took a great mind who was going to be a neuroscientist and work on Alzheimer’s diseases.”

Arrow said that Kieran was hoping to attend Harvard University like both of his parents.

He said that his son was at the Cinnamon Grand Colombo, a luxury hotel, for the breakfast buffet. A suicide bomber set off explosives while standing in line for the buffet there.

U.S. officials originally said that two Americans were among the dead but later said at least four had died in the attacks.

A 40-year-old Denver man has also been identified as a victim of the bombings.

Sri Lankan police detained 40 people, including a Syrian national, in the investigation into the bombings as the death toll rose to 321.

Authorities said National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ) was behind the attacks but said they suspect the “small organization” had international support.

A police officer inspects the damage from a suicide bomber’s explosion at the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo, Sri Lanka on April 21, 2019. (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters)

The radical Islamic group, known as virulently anti-Buddhist, popped up on at least one intelligence agency’s radar over a week before the attacks, prompting Indian intelligence officers to send information to Sri Lankan counterparts, reported the Deccan Chronicle.

Sri Lankan Police Chief Pujith Jayasundara sent a letter dated April 11 to police officers across the nation saying he’d been warned that suicide bombers planned to target “prominent churches” and the Indian High commission. The government of President Maithripala Sirisena said that they hadn’t been aware of the warning until the bombs went off.

The warning came after Sri Lankan police arrested four men from NTJ in January and seized explosives and detonators stashed near a wildlife sanctuary.

Rohan Gunaratna, a Singapore-based security expert, told the Mirror that NTJ is a branch of the ISIS terror group, known for fomenting hardline Islamic law and terror attacks in the Middle East.