New Delhi: The ISIS has claimed responsibility for the devastating Sri Lanka bombings that killed over 300 on Easter Sunday and injured over 500. Sri Lanka had earlier named the local Islamist group, National Thowheeth Jama’ath, as the chief suspect, for the barbaric act that has sparked local and international outrage. A statement on the ISIS’s official al-Amaq news agency made the claim on the encrypted messaging app Telegram saying the suicide bombers were “fighters of the Islamic State”.
The ISIS did not provide any evidence to back the claim, media reports said.
The statement came after an unconfirmed video posted on social media earlier by an affiliated group suggested that the ISIS was behind the Easter horror. The video showed photos of three of the alleged suicide bombers.
In a later statement, the terrorist group released photos of eight people who it said were behind the “blessed attack” that targeted Christians during their “blasphemous holiday,” referring to Easter.
Seven of them had their faces covered and three of them held knives. The one man who displayed his bearded face also appeared to carry an assault rifle. The authenticity of the image could not be independently verified.
Hospital staff move bodies on stretchers in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka following a string of blasts ripped through high-end hotels and churches holding Easter services, killing at least 156 people, including 35 foreigners.
US intelligence sources had earlier said the attacks bore some of the hallmarks of the ISIS. International experts had said, even if a Sri Lankan group had carried out the attacks, it was likely that the ISIS were involved given the level of sophistication of the apparently coordinated bombings.
Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said the number of people arrested since Sunday had risen from 24 to 40.
The powerful blasts – six in quick succession on Easter morning and then two more hours later – left the island nation grieving. Dozens of other foreigners, including 8 Indians, are believed to be among those dead.
The blasts targeted St Anthony’s Church in Colombo, St Sebastian’s Church in the western coastal town of Negombo and another church in the eastern town of Batticaloa around 8.45 a.m. (local time) as the Easter Sunday prayers were in progress.
Three explosions were reported from the five-star hotels – the Shangri-La, the Cinnamon Grand and the Kingsbury.
At least 45 children were among the more than 320 people killed in suicide bomb attacks in Sri Lanka, the United Nations confirmed.
Sri Lankans woke to emergency law and national mourning day today. The president’s office declared that emergency law would come into effect from midnight, giving police extensive powers to detain and interrogate suspects without court orders.
The attacks brought a shattering end to a calm that had existed in the Indian Ocean island since a bitter civil war ended 10 years ago.