Sri Lanka bombings were "retaliation" for Christchurch attack, top official claims

/ CBS News

Officials warned about possible Sri Lanka attack

Latest developments:

A Sri Lankan official said Tuesday that the preliminary investigation into the Easter Sunday suicide bomb attacks has shown it was "retaliation" for the massacre of Muslims at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. The coordinated bombings on Sunday, targeting churches and hotels in and around the Sri Lankan capital, killed more than 300 people.

"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. No other Sri Lankan officials repeated the assessment of the intelligence, and it was unclear what Wijewardene based his judgement on.

Fifty people were killed in shooting attacks on two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch on March 15. An Australian white supremacist is accused of carrying out the attack on his own, and streaming his acts on Facebook.

What the coordination of the Sri Lanka bombings tells us

The death toll in the Sri Lanka bombings had risen to 321 by Tuesday, which had been declared a national day of mourning after the devastating attacks.

Sri Lankans woke up on Tuesday with their country under an official state of emergency — a declaration that gives law enforcement agencies the power to arrest and detain people without charge or court order.

Police said at least 40 suspects had been taken into custody for questioning as of Tuesday.

Sri Lankan officials on Monday pinned the blame for the attack on a Sri Lankan Islamic extremist group, the National Thowfeek Jamaath (NTJ), which they said had likely acted with the help of an "international network."

On Tuesday, Wijewardene said another Sri Lankan extremist group, Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim (JMI) also took part in the attack "along with" the NTJ.

An intelligence alert was sent to top Sri Lankan law enforcement officers on April 11, warning that suicide bombers from NTJ were planning to attack "prominent churches" in the country.

A priest throws earth onto coffins as he conducts a mass burial of victims of a coordinated Easter Sunday suicide bombing attack on churches and hotels, near St. Sebastian Church, April 23, 2019, in Negombo, Sri Lanka. Getty

Two government ministers alluded separately on Monday to possible intelligence failures before the attack.

Telecommunications Minister Harin Fernando tweeted, "Some intelligence officers were aware of this incidence. Therefore there was a delay in action. Serious action needs to be taken as to why this warning was ignored."

First published on April 23, 2019 / 5:30 AM

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