Police arrest 40 suspects as death toll rises to 310 in Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday bombings

Sri Lankan army soldiers secure the area around St. Sebastian's Church, damaged in blast in Negombo, Sri Lanka, April 21, 2019. A series of eight devastating bomb blasts ripped through high-end hotels and churches holding Easter services in Sri Lanka on April 21, killing nearly 200 people, including dozens of foreigners. Photo by Perera Sameera/UPI

April 23 (UPI) — Within hours of Sri Lanka declaring a state of emergency, police announced Tuesday it had arrested some 40 suspects in connection to the Easter Sunday attack on churches and high-end hotels across the country that left more than 300 dead.

Police media spokesman SP Ruwan Gunasekara said that “around 40 suspects,” all of whom are Sri Lankan nationals, had been arrested, Sir Lanka’s Sunday Times Online reported.

He had previously said two dozen had been arrested.

He also said that the death toll rose to 310 from 290 the day before as the injured succumbed to their injuries.

Among the dead, 39 were foreign nationals, at least four of whom were American, the Washington Post reported.

The announcement of the arrests comes on the heels of the country declaring a state of emergency at midnight Monday that would allow military forces to detain and interrogate potential suspects without a court order.

Among those arrested, 26 were being questioned by the Criminal Investigations Department while three others were being held by the Terrorist Investigations Department.

Though no group has claimed responsibility for the coordinated attacks, Sri Lankan authorities have identified local Islamist militant group National Thowheed Jamath as behind the attacks.

Defense Secretary Hemasiri Fernando said Monday that the United State’s FBI and INTERPOL were aiding in the investigation.

In a statement Monday, INTERPOL said a team was being deployed to Sri Lanka and checks were already being made against its stolen and lost travel documents and nominal databases to identify potential leads.

“As the Sri Lankan authorities investigate these horrific attacks, INTERPOL will continue to provide whatever support is necessary,” INTERPOL Secretary General Jurgen Stock said in a statement. “Information to help identify individuals linked to these attacks could come from anywhere in the world, which is where INTERPOL’s global network and databases can prove vital.”

Also on Monday, the United Nations Security Council condemned the Sunday bombings, calling it a “cowardly terrorist attack” while expressing its “deep sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims and to the government of Sri Lanka.”

Japan also said Monday that it would be sending an emergency response team of doctors and government workers to the country.

“I feel deep sorrow and at the same time strong anger, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday. “I strongly condemn these acts. Japan will join hands with Sri Lanka and international society and steadfastly fight terrorism.”

The attacks killed one Japanese woman and injured three other nationals from the Asian country.

Meanwhile, Sri Lankans observed a day of mourning Tuesday by observing three minutes of silence from 8:30 a.m. “as a mark the lives lost during the tragic series of incidents,” the Ministry of Internal and Home Affairs said, the Sunday Times Online reported.

Mass funerals at St. Sebastian church, one of the bombing locations, were also held for those who died on Sunday when coordinated bomb blasts tore through three churches and three high-end hotels throughout the country.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here