Syrian among 40 detained in Sri Lanka blast probe; toll rises to 321
23 April 2019
Sri Lankan police today said about 40 people, including a Syrian, have been arrested for questioning over the Easter Sunday attacks on churches and hotels that left 321 people dead and hundreds of others wounded.
While no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, government sources said the bomb attacks were in retaliation for the recent attack on mosques in New Zealand, and that two Islamist groups within the country were believed to be responsible.
The attackers are believed to be Islamist militants with links to foreign groups, even as US intelligence sources said the attacks bore some of the hallmarks of the Islamic State extremist group.
Police and military sources said the Syrian was arrested following leads from local people arrested since Sunday.
“He was arrested after the interrogation of local suspects,” one of the sources said.
The first six attacks - on three churches and three luxury hotels - came within 20 minutes on Sunday morning during Easter services and as hotels served breakfast.
Two more explosions - at a down-market hotel and a house in a suburb of the capital, Colombo - came in the early afternoon.
Those dead included 38 foreigners, that included British, US, Australian, Turkish, Indian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch and Portuguese nationals.
The government imposed an emergency law at midnight on Monday, giving police extensive powers to detain and interrogate suspects without court orders.
An overnight curfew has also been imposed since Sunday.
U.S. President Donald Trump called Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Monday to pledge US support in bringing the perpetrators to justice.
The Washington Post quoted an unidentified law enforcement official as saying Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents were being sent to Sri Lanka to assist in the investigation.
The FBI has also offered laboratory expertise to test evidence and analysts were scouring databases for information that might shed light on the attacks, the Post said. Counter-terrorism officials from Britain were also due to arrive on Tuesday, a Western diplomat in Colombo said.
The attacks have also bared fractures and discord within Sri Lanka’s government that might have stopped them from taking preventive action.
Reports said the Sri Lankan government had been tipped off by Indian agencies this month about a possible attack on churches by a little-known domestic Islamist group, the National Thawheed Jama’ut group.
It was not immediately clear what action, if any, was taken in response. A government minister said on Monday Wickremesinghe had not been informed about the warning and had been shut out of top security meetings because of a feud with President Maithripala Sirisena.