The St. Sebastian's Church where a blast took place is cordoned off in Negombo, north of Colombo yesterday Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Sri Lankan police carry out controlled explosion near cinema as death toll from Easter bombing rises to 359

Hundreds were killed in a series of bomb blasts in the country on Easter Sunday.

POLICE IN SRI Lanka have carried out a controlled explosion on a motorbike parked near a popular cinema near the capital Colombo.

Reuters is reporting that there were no explosives on the vehicle, with the explosion being carried out after a series of bomb blasts killed hundreds of people on Easter Sunday.

Officials have confirmed that the death toll from the attacks, which targeted hotels and churches, has risen to 359, while at least 500 more remain injured.

Sri Lanka’s government has pointed the finger at a local Islamist group, National Thowheeth Jama’ath, but said they likely had “international” help.

“Certainly the security apparatus is of the view that there are foreign links and some of the evidence points to that,” Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said last night.

“We’ve been following up on this claim, there were suspicions that there were links with ISIS,” he added.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks yesterday, giving the combat names of seven people who it said were behind the “blessed attack”.

Sri Lanka’s defence minister Ruwan Wijewardeneas said that one of the bombers studied in the UK before their involvement in Sunday’s attacks, although he did not identify which one.

“We believe that one of the suicide bombers studied in the UK and later did his postgraduate [studies] in Australia before coming back and settling in Sri Lanka,” he said at a press conference earlier today.

He also revealed that there were nine bombers in total, eight of whom have been identified and one of whom was a woman who killed herself during a raid following the attacks.

Overnight, Sri Lankan police carried out fresh raids, detaining 18 more people in their hunt for those involved in the attacks.

Nearly 60 people have been arrested since the explosions on Sunday, which struck high-end hotels and churches packed with Easter worshippers in and near the capital Colombo.

It is the worst violence in the country since the end of a Tamil insurgency a decade ago, and the worst attack on Christians in the Asian country, where they make up just a fraction of the population.

With reporting from - © AFP 2019

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