Sri Lanka: Easter bombers all killed or arrested

Sri Lanka: Easter bombers all killed or arrested

Sri Lankan security authorities have either killed or arrested all the jihadists responsible for the Easter suicide bombings that left 257 people dead, police chief Chandana Wickramaratne said Tuesday.

A Sri Lankan soldier stands guard outside St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo on May 2, 2019, after a series of bomb blasts targeting churches and luxury hotels on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka. – Sri Lanka’s Catholic Church scrapped plans to resume Sunday services following a “specific threat” against two religious locations after the deadly Easter attacks. (Photo by LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI / AFP)

Police have accounted for every individual involved in the April 21 attacks on three churches and three luxury hotels, Wickramaratne said in an audio statement.

“All those who organised and carried out the suicide bomb attack have died or is in our custody,” he said.

“The two bomb experts of the group have been killed. We have seized the explosives they had stored for future attacks.”

Wickramaratne, who was named acting police chief last week after President Maithripala Sirisena suspended his predecessor over his failure to act on warnings about the attacks, said public life was slowly returning to normal with the lifting of curfews imposed after the bombs.

The government reopened public schools on Monday, but attendance dropped to below 10 percent in many places with parents still fearing attacks.

“We have strengthened security for all schools,” the police chief said. “We are also conducting a programme to create awareness about safety and security in all schools.”

Wickramaratne did not say how many people were in custody over the bombings, but police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said Monday that 73 people, including nine women, were being held.

The bombings were blamed on a local group, the national Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ), but the Islamic State group has also claimed responsibility.

Police said religious tensions have eased at Negombo, a town north of Colombo that suffered the highest death toll in the Easter Sunday attacks. A bomb at St Sebastian’s church in the town killed more than 100 worshippers.

Indian Muslim children and women hold placards take part in a demonstration organized by the Tamilnadu Thawheedh Jamaath Islamic organization in solidarity with the Sri Lankan blasts victims, in Chennai on May 3, 2019. – Sri Lanka bolstered security on May 3 with fears of attacks against bridges in the capital as the prime minister vowed to hunt down any remaining Islamic State extremists behind the deadly Easter bombings. (Photo by ARUN SANKAR / AFP)

Dozens of Muslim-owned businesses, homes and vehicles in Negombo were damaged in clashes on Sunday night.

The Roman Catholic Church appealed for calm and urged Christians not to carry our revenge attacks against Muslims.

Police said two arrests were made and more suspects had been identified through CCTV footage. 

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