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Sri Lanka minister: Easter bomb attacks were 'in retaliation' for Christchurch mosque shootings

Eight explosions struck churches and hotels in the capital Colombo on Easter Sunday.

Sri Lankan soldiers look on inside the St Sebastian's Church, where a bomb exploded on Easter Sunday
Sri Lankan soldiers look on inside the St Sebastian's Church, where a bomb exploded on Easter Sunday
Image: UPI/PA Images

Updated Apr 23rd 2019, 9:49 AM

AN INITIAL PROBE into deadly suicide bomb attacks in Sri Lanka that killed more than 300 people shows it was “retaliation for Christchurch,” the country’s deputy defence minister has said.

“The preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch,” state minister of defence Ruwan Wijewardene told parliament.

Fifty people were killed in shooting attacks on two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch on 15 March.

The development came after Sri Lankan police announced that the death toll from the string of suicide bomb attacks that rocked the country on Easter Sunday has risen to 310.

A police spokesman confirmed that more people died as a result of their injuries overnight, and that around 500 people in total were wounded in the blasts.

He added that 40 people were now under arrest in connection with the attacks, which Sri Lanka has blamed on the little-known Islamist group, National Thowheeth Jama’ath.

The powerful blasts – six in quick succession and then two more hours later – wrought devastation at churches and hotels in and near the capital Colombo.

The attacks are the worst atrocity since Sri Lanka’s civil war ended a decade ago.

Dozens of foreigners were among those killed, and three minutes of silence were held to honour the victims from 8.30am local time, the time of the first bomb blast.

A number of memorial services for the victims have been planned, hours after the government imposed a state of emergency.

Sri Lanka Blasts Sri Lankan air force officers and clergy stand outside St. Anthony's Shrine a day after a blast in Colombo Source: Gemunu Amarasinghe/PA Images

The attacks were also the worst ever against the country’s small Christian minority, who make up just seven percent of its population of 21 million.

Investigators are now searching for clues on whether National Thowheeth Jama’ath received “international support”, a government spokesman said.

President Maithripala Sirisena’s office said that there was intelligence that “international terror groups” were “behind local terrorists” and that he would seek foreign help to investigate.

THE CANADIAN PRESS 2019-04-22 A woman places flowers at a vigil honouring the victims of the bombings in Sri Lanka in Canada Source: Jonathan Hayward/PA Images

A state of emergency, which has given police and the military special powers to counter militant strikes, came into force at midnight local time last night.

A second night-time curfew was also put in place, but lifted before dawn.

A bomb discovered by police on Monday near one of the targeted churches blew up before police could defuse it, although no injuries were reported. 

Police also found 87 bomb detonators at a Colombo bus station yesterday.

Danish billionaire

Meanwhile, details have begun to emerge about some of the foreigners killed in the attacks.

The United States reported that at least four Americans were killed – including a child – while the Netherlands confirmed that three of its citizens also died.

The Danish billionaire who founded online fashion retailer Asos lost three of his four children, a spokesman for his company said.

Meanwhile, eight Britons, eight Indians and nationals from Turkey, Australia, France, Japan and Portugal, were also killed, according to Sri Lankan officials and foreign governments.

With reporting from - © AFP 2019

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