Sri Lanka said yesterday it believed a local Islamist extremist group was behind deadly suicide bomb blasts that killed nearly 300 people, as it ordered a national state of emergency beginning midnight.
The death toll from Sunday’s attacks rose dramatically yesterday to 290, including dozens of foreigners in the worst atrocity since the country’s civil war ended a decade ago.More than 500 people were injured in the assault that saw suicide bombers hit three high-end hotels popular with foreign tourists, and three churches, unleashing carnage in Colombo and beyond.
Government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said investigators were looking at whether the National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ) group had “international support” for the deadly Easter Sunday attacks on churches and luxury hotels. So far, 24 people have been arrested in connection with the attacks, but no details have been given about them.
Little is known about the NTJ, but documents seen by AFP show Sri Lanka’s police chief issued a warning on April 11, saying a “foreign intelligence agency” had reported the group was planning attacks on churches and the Indian high commission.
The group has previously only been linked to vandalising Buddhist statues. “We don’t see that only a small organisation in this country can do all that,” said Senaratne of the deadly attacks.
“We are now investigating the international support for them, and their other links… how they produced the suicide bombers here, and how they produced bombs like this.”