COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka’s government said Monday that a local Islamist group is very likely to be responsible for a series of Easter Sunday suicide attacks that rocked the country and claimed more than 290 lives.

Government spokesman and Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne told a news conference that a terrorist group known as National Thowheeth Jamath are believed to be responsible for the attacks, which were carried out a day earlier by seven suicide bombers.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the attacks.

Senaratne confirmed that police had had advance information about possible suicide attacks on churches, but failed to act on the tip. He said the information had not been shared with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe or his cabinet.

“We believe there was international support for this type of attack. Such attacks cannot be carried out without such support,” Senaratne said. “The inspector general of police should resign over this.”

Sri Lanka’s defense minister, President Maithripala Sirisena, is responsible for the police, and hails from a different political party than Wickremsinghe.

Wickremesighe and Sirisena are in an uneasy coalition government after the president in a surprise move sacked the prime minister in October. His position was restored by the courts after a 52-day political crisis.

Late Monday, police commandos defused an explosive device and discovered 87 detonators in two separate locations in the capital, police said.

The explosive device was found inside a vehicle parked close to the location where one of the suicide bomb attacks was carried out — a church in Kotahena, a suburb of the capital.

The 87 detonators were found close to a main bus stand in the capital.

Police have arrested at least 24 people in connection with Sunday’s bomb blasts.

Investigators confirmed that seven of the attacks were carried out by suicide bombers.

Government Analyst N Welianga told reporters the three attacks on churches and three others on hotels in the capital were carried out by suicide bombers.

The Defence Ministry was probing whether two bombers were involved in one of the hotel attacks, which would mean that a total of seven suicide bombers were involved in the coordinated blasts.

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said that the individuals arrested, all locals, were being questioned by the Criminal Investigation Department.

The death toll increased overnight as more victims died in hospital and several other bodies were discovered.

A dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed throughout the Indian Ocean island nation was lifted on Monday morning. Schools and universities are expected to remain shut while the stock exchange has suspended trading until further notice.

The curfew is to be reimposed from 8 p.m. until 4 a.m. Tuesday.

Authorities have located a van — believed to have transported the bombers — and the house where they stayed on the outskirts of Colombo.

Late Sunday, a home-made bomb was found inside a plastic pipe close to the airport and defused, a spokesman for the Air Force said.

The explosions took place during busy Easter services at Christian churches in the cities of Negombo, Batticaloa and Colombo and in three five-star hotels in the capital.

At least 40 foreigners are among those killed, while 10 more remain in hospital, government officials said.

Black and white flags have been put up in most parts of the country to mourn the deaths, with some of the funerals due to take place later in the day.

 


Comments are not available on this story.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.