Chilling CCTV footage shows one of the suspected suicide bombers in Sri Lanka patting a young girl’s head seconds before he enters a crowded church where a blast killed almost 100 worshippers.
The video shows the bearded man, wearing a large, heavy backpack, placing his hand on the child, who is with an adult, as they almost bump into each other outside the Gothic-style St Sebastian’s Catholic church.
The suspect then calmly walks in through a side door – passing dozens who chose to stand outside during Easter Sunday mass – and steps between pews packed with worshippers.
The service in Negombo, on Sri Lanka’s west coast, was already under way when a terrorist blew himself up close to the altar, killing 93 people.
ISIS has claimed responsibility for the bombings..
The footage obtained by Sri Lankan media does not show the explosion.
The clip ends one frame before the suspect – who had eyeglasses and was wearing black trousers and a short-sleeve shirt with stripes – detonates his device.
It is believed to be the same man who encountered Dilip Fernando’s granddaughter outside the church.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, Mr Fernando told AFP of the chilling moment one of the suicide bombers touched his granddaughter’s head moments before the massacre.
Mr Fernando, 66, said the bomber entered the church with a heavy bag.
The grandfather narrowly avoided the deadly blast after deciding to go elsewhere for mass because it was so crowded.
The explosion ripped through the church shortly after he left.
He told AFP that seven of his extended family, including in-laws and his two granddaughters, decided to stay, sitting outside because the church was so crowded.
Mr Fernando said: “At the end of the mass they saw one young man go into the church in with a heavy bag.
“He touched my granddaughter’s head on the way past. It was the bomber.”
Seven suicide bombers killed 321 people – including 45 children – and injured 500 others when they attacked three churches and three hotels.
Eight Britons were among those who died.
A source told AFP that the two bombers who blew themselves up at the Shangri-La hotel in Colombo were brothers.
A fourth hotel was to be attacked but the plan failed, police sources told AFP.
The bombings were carried out by local Islamist extremists in retaliation for the deadly mosque attacks in New Zealand, a junior minister has claimed.
Fifty Muslim worshippers were killed by an alleged white supremacist gunman at two Christchurch mosques on March 15.
State minister of defence Ruwan Wijewardene said in an address to parliament: “The initial investigation has revealed that this was in retaliation for the New Zealand mosque attack.
“It was done by National Thowfeek Jamaath along with JMI (Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim).”
Amid fears of further attacks, Sri Lanka’s national police force has told its officers to be on the lookout for vehicles that could be used in suicide blasts, including a lorry and a van believed to be packed with explosives.
Sri Lankan authorities have arrested 40 people for questioning, and a Syrian was among those detained, a source told Reuters.
Seven of the eight Britons who were killed have been identified.
Londoner Matthew Linsey’s daughter Amelie, 15, and son Daniel, 19, were killed in one of two blasts at the Shangri-La hotel.
They were on the final day of their holiday.
Mr Linsey, 60, has told how he was forced to make the heart-wrenching decision of which injured child to save only for both to die.
Ben Nicholson, 43, lost his wife Anita, 42, son Alex, 14, and daughter Annabel, 11, when one of seven suicide bombers struck as they ate breakfast at the Shangri-La.
GP Sally Bradley and her husband Bill Harrop, a retired firefighter, from Manchester, died in the Cinnamon Grand Hotel bombing.
The couple had been living in Perth, Australia, and were moving back to the UK soon after buying a retirement home in the Cotswolds.
ASOS billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen, 46, and his wife Anne, 40, lost three of their four children in the attack at the Shangri-La hotel.
Mr Povlsen is the richest man in Denmark and Scotland’s largest individual private landowner, with 12 estates across more than 220,000 acres.