COLOMBO (Reuters) – Sri Lankan police are attempting to track down 140 individuals believed linked to Islamic State, which has claimed duty for the Easter Sunday suicide bombings of churches and hotels that killed 253 individuals, President Maithripala Sirisena mentioned on Friday.
Muslims in Sri Lanka had been urged to pray at dwelling and not attend mosques or churches following the State Intelligence Solutions warned of achievable auto bomb attacks, amid fears of retaliatory violence.
The U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka also urged its citizens to prevent locations of worship more than the coming weekend following authorities reported there could be much more attacks targeting religious centers.
Sri Lanka remains on edge following the suicide bombing attacks on 3 churches and 4 hotels that also wounded about 500 individuals.
Almost 10,000 soldiers had been deployed across the Indian Ocean island state to carry out searches and supply safety for religious centers, the military mentioned on Friday.
The All Ceylon Jamiyathul Ullama, Sri Lanka’s primary Islamic religious physique, urged Muslims to conduct prayers at dwelling in case “there is a need to have to guard family members and properties”.
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith also appealed to priests not to conduct mass at churches till additional notice.
“Security is significant,” he mentioned.
Police have detained at least 76 individuals, like foreigners from Syria and Egypt, in their investigations so far.
Islamic State supplied no proof to back its claim that it was behind the attacks. If correct, it would be 1 of the worst attacks carried out by the group outdoors Iraq and Syria.
The extremist group released a video on Tuesday displaying eight males, all but 1 with their faces covered, standing beneath a black Islamic State flag and declaring their loyalty to its leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.
DEFENSE, POLICE CHIEFS QUIT
The Sri Lankan government mentioned nine homegrown, properly-educated suicide bombers carried out the attacks, eight of whom had been identified. A single was a lady.
Sirisena told reporters on Friday some Sri Lankan youths had been involved with Islamic State given that 2013. He mentioned facts uncovered so far recommended there had been 140 individuals in Sri Lanka involved in Islamic State activities.
“Police are seeking to arrest them,” Sirisena mentioned.
Authorities have so far focused their investigations on international hyperlinks to two domestic Islamist groups – National Thawheed Jama’ut and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim – they think carried out the attacks.
Government officials have acknowledged a important lapse in not broadly sharing an intelligence warning from India just before the attacks.
Sirisena mentioned leading defense and police chiefs had not shared facts with him about the impending attacks. Defense Secretary Hemasiri Fernando resigned more than the failure to avoid the attacks.
“The police chief mentioned he will resign now,” Sirisena mentioned.
He blamed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government for weakening the intelligence program by focusing on the prosecution of military officers more than alleged war crimes through a decade-lengthy civil war with Tamil separatists that ended in 2009.
Sirisena fired Wickremesinghe in October more than political variations, only to reinstate him weeks later beneath stress from the Supreme Court.
Opposing factions aligned to Wickremesinghe and Sirisena have frequently refused to communicate with each and every other and blame any setbacks on their opponents, government sources say.
The Easter Sunday bombings shattered the relative calm that had existed in Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka given that the civil war against mainly Hindu ethnic Tamil separatists ended.
Sri Lanka’s 22 million individuals contain minority Christians, Muslims and Hindus. Till now, Christians had largely managed to prevent the worst of the island’s conflict and communal tensions.
Most of the victims had been Sri Lankans, despite the fact that authorities mentioned at least 38 foreigners had been also killed, a lot of of them vacationers sitting down to breakfast at leading-finish hotels when the bombers struck.
They incorporated British, U.S., Australian, Turkish, Indian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch and Portuguese nationals. Britain warned its nationals on Thursday to prevent Sri Lanka unless it was completely required.
Fears of retaliatory sectarian violence have currently brought on Muslim communities to flee their properties amid bomb scares, lockdowns and safety sweeps.
But at the Kollupitiya Jumma Masjid mosque, tucked in amongst sleepy side streets in Colombo, hundreds defied government calls to keep at dwelling, attending a service they say was focused on a get in touch with for individuals of all religions to support return peace to Sri Lanka.
“It’s a really sad scenario,” mentioned 28-year-old sales worker Raees Ulhaq, as soldiers hurried on dawdling worshippers and sniffer dogs nosed their way by means of pot-holed lanes.
“We perform with Christians, Buddhists, Hindus. It has been a threat for all of us simply because of what these handful of individuals have performed to this attractive nation.”
(GRAPHIC: Sri Lanka bombings – tmsnrt.rs/2Xy02BA)
(GRAPHIC: A decade of peace shattered – tmsnrt.rs/2W4wZoU)
Reporting by Sanjeev Miglani and Joe Brock Writing by Michael Perry Editing by Paul Tait and Nick Macfie