Easter massacre 'revenge for NZ'

Top News | Agence France-Presse 24 Apr 2019

Islamist suicide bombings that killed more than 300 people in Sri Lanka at the weekend were carried out in revenge for last month's attacks on two mosques in New Zealand, the government said yesterday, citing an initial police probe.

The revelation came as the death toll in the Easter Sunday bomb attacks on churches and high-end hotels rose to 321, with hundreds more wounded and still in hospital.

"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 shot dead on March 15 at two mosques in the New Zealand city by an avowed white nationalist.

Wijewardene said the group behind the Sri Lanka bombings was the little-known National Thowheeth Jama'ath (NTJ), an extremist Islamist group previously blamed for defacing Buddhist statues.

Police have detained at least 40 people as they investigate the worst act of violence in the country since a civil war ended a decade ago.

Grieving Sri Lankans began to bury their dead yesterday and the country observed a day of national mourning.

Three minutes of silence were marked nationwide from 8.30am, the time the first suicide bomber struck on Sunday, unleashing carnage at three hotels and three churches packed with Easter worshippers.

Investigators are hunting for clues on whether NTJ had international support, with government officials saying the attack seemed too well-coordinated for the small group to have carried out alone.

President Maithripala Sirisena's office said there was intelligence that "international terror groups" were behind the local perpetrators and that he would seek foreign help to investigate.

Officials are investigating why more precautions were not taken after an April 11 warning from Sri Lanka's police that a "foreign intelligence agency" had reported the NTJ planned suicide attacks on churches. Government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said the warning was not passed on to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe or other top ministers.

At least 45 children were among the more than 320 people killed in suicide bomb attacks in Sri Lanka, the United Nations said yesterday.

UNICEF spokesman Christophe Boulierac told reporters in Geneva.

He added that the toll from the Sunday attacks could rise as many other minors "are wounded and are now fighting for their lives in intensive care units across the country."

Danish billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen, who was on vacation in Sri Lanka with his family at the weekend, lost three of his four children in the attack, a spokesman for his clothing retail group Bestseller said.

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