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Islamist group believed responsible for Sri Lanka attacks

Anthony David, DPA on

Published in News & Features

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka -- Sri Lanka's government said Monday that a local Islamist group is very likely to be responsible for a series of Easter Sunday suicide attacks that rocked the country and claimed more than 290 lives.

Government spokesman and Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne told a news conference that a terrorist group known as National Thowheeth Jamath are believed to be responsible for the attacks, which were carried out a day earlier by seven suicide bombers.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the attacks.

Senaratne confirmed that police had had advance information about possible suicide attacks on churches, but failed to act on the tip. He said the information had not been shared with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe or his cabinet.

"We believe there was international support for this type of attack. Such attacks cannot be carried out without such support," Senaratne said. "The inspector general of police should resign over this."

Sri Lanka's defense minister, President Maithripala Sirisena, is responsible for the police, and hails from a different political party than Wickremsinghe.

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Wickremesighe and Sirisena are in an uneasy coalition government after the president in a surprise move sacked the prime minister in October. His position was restored by the courts after a 52-day political crisis.

Late Monday, police commandos defused an explosive device and discovered 87 detonators in two separate locations in the capital, police said.

The explosive device was found inside a vehicle parked close to the location where one of the suicide bomb attacks was carried out -- a church in Kotahena, a suburb of the capital.

The 87 detonators were found close to a main bus stand in the capital.

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