Sri Lanka blasts: Death toll climbs to 290; 24 suspects in CID custody

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International desk, April 22: The death toll in Sri Lanka has soared to 290 after a wave of blasts hit churches and luxury hotels across the country on Easter Sunday.During a Cordon and Search carried out by the Sri Lanka Air Force today, 152 ammunitions and 8 ammo cases had been found at the Kahagolla area.

The death toll for the Easter Sunday terror attacks has risen to 290 by Monday morning with 500 have been injured, Police Spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said.

He said 24 suspects are currently in the CID custody, but the government has not yet identified who carried out the attacks.

About 500 people are injured and dozens of foreigners are among the dead.

The country is in shock after the bombings, the deadliest violence since the end of the civil war in 2009.

There are reports of social media networks being temporarily restricted to try and stop misinformation spreading.

Popular messaging services like WhatsApp and Facebook are said to be unavailable to many.

How did the attacks unfold?

The first reports of explosions came at about 08:45 (03:15 GMT) local time – with six blasts reported within a small space of time.

Three churches in Negombo, Batticaloa and Colombo’s Kochchikade district were targeted during Easter services and blasts also rocked the Shangri-La, Kingsbury and Cinnamon Grand hotels in the country’s capital.

As police hunted those responsible, two further explosions were reported.

One blast hit near the zoo in Dehiwala, southern Colombo, and an eighth was reported near the Colombo district of Dematagoda during a police raid, killing three officers.

Late on Sunday, the air force said an improvised explosive device had been found and disposed of close to the country’s main airport in the capital, Colombo.

“A PVC pipe which was six feet [1.8m] in length containing explosives in it was discovered,” spokesman Gihan Seneviratne told local media.

It remains unclear who was behind the attacks, but 24 arrests were made by police.

The government has said they believe suicide bombs were used at some of the sites.

During a news conference on Sunday evening, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe addressed rumours that officials had had prior intelligence of forthcoming attacks.

“We must look into why adequate precautions were not taken. Neither I nor the Ministers were kept informed,” he said.

“For now the priority is to apprehend the attackers,” he added.

The vast majority of those killed are thought to be Sri Lankan nationals, including scores of Christians who died at Easter church services.

The country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs says it believes 36 foreign nationals are among the dead, with most still unidentified at a Colombo morgue.

World leaders have been offering their shock and condolences to Sri Lanka over the deadly blasts.

Several prominent international monuments, including the Eiffel Tower, were dimmed or lit in Sri Lanka’s colours in solidarity on Sunday night.

Sunday’s attacks are the deadliest seen in Sri Lanka since the end of the country’s civil war in 2009.

The civil war ended with the defeat of the Tamil Tigers, who had fought for 26 years for an independent homeland for the minority ethnic Tamils.

The war is thought to have killed between 70,000 and 80,000 people.

The nation has seen some sporadic violence since. In March 2018 a state of emergency was declared after members of the majority Buddhist Sinhala community attacked mosques and Muslim-owned properties.

Religion in Sri Lanka

Theravada Buddhism is Sri Lanka’s biggest religious group, making up about 70.2% of the population, according to the most recent census.

It is the religion of Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese majority, is given primary place in the country’s laws and is singled out in the constitution.

Hindus and Muslims make up 12.6% and 9.7% of the population respectively.

Sri Lanka is also home to about 1.5 million Christians, according to the 2012 census, the vast majority of them Roman Catholic.

Source: News Agencies