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Monday, 22 April 2019

Sri Lanka Bombings, Local Islamists to Blame, The Government Says

The Sri Lankan government says a local Islamist group is behind a series of bomb attacks. The blasts on Sunday across the country killed hundreds and injured many more, Sri Lanka Bombings, Local Islamists to Blame, The Government Says.

Sri Lanka Bombings, Local Islamists to Blame, The Government Says

Sri Lankan government officials on Monday said a local militant group called National Thowfeek Jamaath carried out multiple suicide bomb attacks the previous day in which 290 people died.

Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne told a news conference that all the bombers were Sri Lankan citizens, but that the group likely had foreign links as the attacks seemed too sophisticated to have been carried out without "international support."

Officials said 24 Sri Lankan suspects were now in custody for questioning in connection with the attacks.

A government forensic crime investigator said an examination of the attackers' body parts showed that they were suicide bombers.

The attacks, which targeted Christian churches and hotels popular with foreigners, amounted to the deadliest violence to hit Sri Lanka since a civil war ended 10 years ago. More than 500 people were injured in the blasts.

Detonators found

Also on Monday, a police spokesman said that 87 bomb detonators had been found at the main bus station in the capital, Colombo, and a nearby garbage dump. Earlier, police said that they had defused an improvised bomb at the international airport in Colombo.

Sri Lankan authorities have also ordered a state of emergency to be imposed from midnight on Monday, the president's office said.

Read more: How the Sri Lanka attacks unfolded

Curfew in Colombo

Earlier on Monday, authorities lifted an overnight curfew, but then ordered a second curfew in Colombo that is to run from 8 p.m. local time (1430 UTC) Monday to 4 a.m. (2230 UTC) on Tuesday.

Officials will look into possible intelligence failures, the government said, amid reports that security services ignored warnings of an imminent attack against churches.

Sri Lanka's minister of tourism, John Amaratunga, said 39 foreign tourists were killed and 28 injured in Sunday's attacks. Previous reports said citizens from the United States, Japan, Australia and India were among those to die in the blasts.

A German-US dual national was among the victims, the Foreign Ministry in Berlin announced on Monday. "So far as we know, there are no other German nationals among the victims," a spokeswoman said, as she expressed deepest sympathy for those injured or killed in the attack.

Fears of sectarian violence

The attacks have raised fears of a resurgence of the communal violence that has often plagued the island. Police reported late on Sunday that a mosque in the northwest had suffered a petrol-bomb attack and that two Muslim-owned shops in the west were targeted by arsonists.

Top Muslim leaders have condemned Sunday's church and hotel attacks, describing them as "dastardly acts" that deserved "maximum punishment."

"On behalf of the Sri Lankan Muslim community, we offer our condolences to the people of Christian faith and extend our hands of friendship in solidarity," said the All Ceylon Jamiyyathuul Ulama, or council of Muslim theologians.

Social media blackout

Sri Lankan authorities blocked Facebook and its WhatsApp and Instagram services on Monday, citing the spread of "false news reports" on the various platforms regarding the Easter Sunday attacks.

Authorities said the blackout would be held until an investigation into the blasts was concluded.

The NetBlocks observatory also reported an intentional blackout of other platforms, including YouTube, Snapchat and Viber. Twitter, however, was not affected.

The move was not the first for the Sri Lankan government, which had previously imposed a weeklong social media ban in March 2018 out of concern that WhatsApp and other platforms were being used to fan anti-Muslim violence in the country's central region.

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