Sri Lankan minister points to bomber’s Australian link

A Sri Lankan minister said one of the suspects who carried out the multiple suicide bombings in the island nation on Easter Sunday had studied in the United Kingdom and Australia.

At the same time police confirmed there were nine suicide bombers, with eight already identified. One was a woman.

Image posted by Islamic State purports to show attackers in Sri Lanka standing before the terror group’s flag.

Deputy Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene said authorities believed the bomber studied in the UK and did a postgraduate degree in Australia before returning to Sri Lanka.

"What we can say is some of the suspected bombers, most of them are well-educated and come from maybe middle or upper middle class so are financially independent and their families are quite stable.

"That’s a worrying factor in this because some of them have studied in various other countries," Wijewardene told reporters.

The country is carrying out a massive investigation into the blasts which killed more than 300 people, among them foreigners, at luxury hotels and churches on Sunday morning.

Sri Lankan police have detained 18 more people for questioning over the Easter Sunday attacks on churches and hotels, claimed by the Islamic State group, as the death toll climbed to 359.

The extremist Islamic State made its claim after Sri Lankan officials said the bombings were carried out in retaliation for attacks on two mosques in New Zealand that killed 50 people in March.

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said the death toll had risen to 359 from 321 overnight, with about 500 people wounded, but did not give a breakdown of casualties from the three churches and four hotels hit by the bombers.

Sri Lankans prepare to bury the coffins carrying remains of Berington Joseph, left, and Burlington Bevon, who were killed in the Easter Sunday bombings.Credit:AP

Sri Lankan police said have carried out a controlled explosion of a suspicious motor-scooter parked near the popular Savoy cinema in the capital Colombo at lunch time. There were no explosives in the vehicle, police said.

Wijewardene on Tuesday told Parliament two Sri Lankan Islamist groups – the National Thowheeth Jamaath or NTJ and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim – were responsible for the blasts, which went off during Easter services and as hotels served breakfast.

The overnight raids included areas near the Gothic-style St Sebastian church in Negombo, north of the capital, where scores were killed on Sunday. An unspecified number of people were detained in western Sri Lanka, the scene of Muslim riots in 2014.

The Easter Sunday bombings shattered the relative calm that has existed in Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka since a civil war against mostly Hindu, ethnic Tamil separatists ended 10 years ago, and raised fears of a return to sectarian violence.

Sri Lanka's 22 million people include minority Christians, Muslims and Hindus.

The attacks have already foreshadowed a shake-up of Sri Lankan security forces, with President Maithripala Sirisena saying he planned to change some of his defence chiefs after criticism that intelligence warnings of an Easter attack were ignored.

Sources told Reuters Sri Lankan intelligence officials had been warned by India hours before the blasts that attacks by Islamists were imminent. It was not clear what action, if any, was taken.

Most of those killed and wounded were Sri Lankans, although government officials said 38 foreigners were also killed, including Australian mother Manik Suriaaratchi and her 10-year-old daughter Alexendria.

Others included British, US, Turkish, Indian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch and Portuguese nationals.

The Sri Lankan government has imposed emergency law and an overnight curfew. It said it has also blocked online messaging services to stop the spread of inflammatory rumours that it feared could incite communal clashes.

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation and the London Metropolitan Police are assisting with investigations.

The US ambassador to Sri Lanka said "clearly there was some failure in the system" prior to Easter bombings but that America had "no prior knowledge" of a threat.

Reuters, AAP

Source: Read Full Article