The Sri Lanka attacks which killed at least 321 people on Easter Sunday were carried out in retaliation for the Christchurch terror attack, the country’s defence minister has said.
In the attacks on April 21, three churches in Kochchikade, Negombo and Batticaloa were targeted, while three hotels in Colombo were also hit. Two further explosions were then reported – one near the zoo in Dehiwala and an eighth during a police raid.
Police confirmed the death toll of the attacks which took place on Easter Sunday (April 21) across numerous churches and hotels had risen to 321 earlier today.
Sri Lanka Govt says initial investigations reveal that suicide bombings were carried out as revenge for New Zealand attack killings. ISIS support can’t be ruled out entirely. Death toll in Sri Lanka terror attack rises to 321. Crackdown on radicals and Islamist elements ongoing.
— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) April 23, 2019
Sri Lanka’s minister of state for defence told the country’s parliament today (April 23) that preliminary investigations showed the Easter Sunday bombings were carried out in response to the New Zealand terror attack, The Guardian reports.
Ruwan Wijewardene told a special sitting of the national body that investigations showed:
This attack was carried out in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch.
An intelligence memo circulated to part of the government before the attack noted that one suspect had updated his social media ‘with extremist content’ after the Christchurch shootings in which 50 people were murdered in two mosques.
However, terrorism researchers have said the sophisticated nature of the attack in Sri Lanka and the equipment used would likely have required months of preparation.
Sunday’s attacks were the deadliest violence Sri Lanka has witnessed since the end of the country’s civil war in 2009 and a state of emergency is in effect to prevent further attacks.
As per The Guardian, 40 arrests have been made so far, with the state of emergency giving authorities sweeping powers to detain and interrogate suspects without court orders.
The Sri Lankan government yesterday (April 22) named local Islamist group National Thowheed Jamath as the organisation responsible for the bombings.
National Thowheeth Jama’ath is a newly formed group in Sri Lanka committed to a militant and intolerant Islamist ideology, The Guardian reports. However, although it is known for being anti-Buddhist, it has never been linked to terrorism before now.
Neither the National Thowheeth Jama’ath, nor any other group, has admitted carrying out Sunday’s attacks.
Today the first funerals for the victims of the Easter terror attacks are being held, as the country observes a national day of mourning.
Our thoughts are with the victims and their families at this devastating time.
For those in the UK worried about friends and relatives in Sri Lanka, a hotline has been set up by the high commission in London, which you can call on 07917 382486.