Sri Lanka bombings
May 6, 2019

A little more than two weeks after suicide bombings killed more than 250 people in Sri Lanka, every suspect directly linked to the attacks is either dead or arrested, Reuters reports.

Sri Lanka's acting police chief Chandana Wickramaratne announced the news on Monday in an audio statement circulated by the Sri Lankan defense ministry. He also said security forces confiscated bomb-making materials which were intended for use in future attacks by the militants.

The news comes after Sri Lanka instituted emergency powers which gave sweeping authority to the police and military as they tracked down suspects.

There is still some uncertainty surrounding the situation, however. Sri Lankan authorities believe the Easter Sunday attacks were carried out by two little-known local Islamist groups, the National Tawheed Jamath and Jamathei Millathu Ibrahim, both of which were banned by the state. The only group to have claimed responsibility for the attacks outright, though, is the Islamic State. It remains unclear whether ISIS and the local groups were literally working together, or whether the former served as inspiration. Tim O'Donnell

April 27, 2019

Days after a series of bombings killed more than 200 people in Sri Lanka on Sunday, 16 more people died in the country after police raided a house, which was reportedly harboring suspected terrorists, in the town of Sainthamaruthu on Friday.

During the raid, gunmen fired on police and three men reportedly set off explosives in the house, killing six children and three women. Another woman was reportedly killed in the crossfire as she passed the house on a rickshaw. Six suspected terrorists were also killed.

Two of the suspected terrorists, who are believed to be affiliated with National Tawheed Jamath, a local extremist Islamist group, are reportedly on the run following the raid.

National Tawheed Jamath is being blamed for the Easter Sunday attacks, but has not claimed responsibility. The Islamic State, however, has done so. While several analysts suspect that, at the very least, National Tawheed Jamath took inspiration from ISIS in carrying out the bombings, no link between the two groups has been proven. Tim O'Donnell

April 25, 2019

Sri Lankan officials on Thursday lowered the death toll from Sunday's attacks from 359 to 253, CNN reports.

Coordinated suicide bombings targeted several churches and hotels on Sunday, and the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks, though the bombers were reportedly a part of a lesser-known militant group.

The death toll was initially estimated above 300, but the Sri Lankan Health Ministry revised the estimate after further investigation. "Some of the bodies get severely damaged in these kinds of explosions and it's possible for some bodies to get completely destroyed or break into parts, making the identification of full bodies difficult," said the ministry statement. "Hence, counting an exact death toll is challenging." Read more at CNN. The Week Staff

April 24, 2019

Mohammad Yusuf Ibrahim, a politically connected millionaire spice trader, has been detained in connection with the coordinated suicide bombings that killed more than 350 people on Easter Sunday, Indian officials told The New York Times.

Indian media reports that two of Ibrahim's sons were among the eight suicide bombers, and during a raid at his villa near the Sri Lankan capital Colombo on Sunday, a female suspect detonated a suicide vest, killing herself, two of her children, and several police officers. Ibrahim is now being interrogated by police, investigators said.

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for Sunday's attacks, but Sri Lankan officials said they do not know how the bombers are linked to the terrorist group. During a press conference on Wednesday, Sri Lanka's minister of defense, Ruwan Wijewardene, said most of the bombers were well-educated and from families that "are stable financially." Catherine Garcia

April 23, 2019

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena said Tuesday that he will fire senior officials who did not heed warnings that a Islamist group was plotting suicide attacks against churches in the country.

"I must be truthful and admit that there were lapses on the part of defense officials," he said. On Easter Sunday, coordinated suicide bombings at churches and hotels left more than 300 people dead and 500 more injured. Sirisena said officials were aware there "was an intelligence report on the attack," but he was "not kept informed."

Sirisena's senior adviser Shiral Lakthilaka announced that two positions are "earmarked for dismissal": secretary of the ministry of defense and inspector general of police. Critics say Sirisena has to take some of the blame, since he wouldn't let Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, his political rival, attend security meetings.

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attacks, and posted a video online featuring an extremist preacher from Sri Lanka named Mohammed Zaharan. Officials suspect that Zaharan, who led a small group called National Thowfeek Jamaath that defaced Buddhist statues, was the attack's ringleader; his whereabouts are unknown, and officials believe he may have been a suicide bomber, The New York Times reports. Indian officials on Tuesday said they had been keeping an eye on Zaharan, as they suspected he was an online recruiter for ISIS. Catherine Garcia

April 23, 2019

On Tuesday, Sri Lanka raised the official death toll from Sunday's coordinated bombings at churches and luxury hotels to 321 dead and 500 wounded, and Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardene gave a possible motive for the attack. "The preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch," New Zealand, he told Sri Lanka's parliament.

A 28-year-old Australian white supremacist has been charged with murdering 50 people in two mosques during Friday prayer services on March 15. Sri Lanka has blamed a domestic Islamist militant group, National Thowfeek Jamaath, for Sunday's suicide bombings, which struck three Christian churches during Easter services and three hotels almost simultaneously, followed later by two more attacks. At least 40 people have been arrested as of Tuesday morning, including the driver of the van allegedly used by the initial seven suicide bombers, Sri Lanka said.

Sri Lanka responded to the bombings by shutting down social media sites and granting the military sweeping powers not used since the country's 26-year-old civil war ended in 2009. But Sri Lanka's government is also struggling to explain why it did not respond to warnings from foreign intelligence services, starting April 4, that National Thowfeek Jamaath was planning to target "some important churches" in a suicide terrorist attack to be carried out "shortly." Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and his Cabinet were unaware of the intelligence reports, blaming political dysfunction. Peter Weber

April 22, 2019

Sri Lanka's military now has "sweeping" new powers following a series of bombings on Sunday that targeted luxury hotels and churches during Easter services, killing almost 300 people, The Associated Press reports. Officials are blaming a radical Islamist group for the attacks.

Sri Lanka's president, Maithripala Sirisena, granted the military a wider berth to arrest and detain suspects, per AP. The powers were reportedly in place during Sri Lanka's 25-year civil war, but were stripped away after the conflicted ended 10 years ago.

The decision is in line with the government's choice to enact a curfew and block some social media sites, including Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram, though the latter reportedly did little to "reassure residents and visitors that the danger had passed."

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he would "vest all necessary powers with the defense forces" to prevent instability and act against those responsible.

A nationwide state of emergency began on Tuesday, along with a national day of mourning. Read more at The Associated Press. Tim O'Donnell

April 22, 2019

Sri Lanka's government said Monday that a coordinated series of bombings that killed at least 290 people and wounded 500 on Sunday had been carried out by seven suicide bombers from National Thowfeek Jamaath, a little-known Islamist militant group. All the bombers and most of the victims were Sri Lankan, the government said, though authorities are investigating possible foreign links to the attack. At least 24 people were arrested.

The first six bombings hit three Christian churches holding Easter services and three luxury hotels. Among the dead were 32 foreigners from the U.S., Britain, Turkey, India, China, Portugal, and the Netherlands; Danish billionaire Anders Hoch Povlsen said three of his four children died in the attacks.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe confirmed Sunday night that security services had been "aware of information" about a possible attack on churches and had not acted on it. An April 11 domestic intelligence report seen by Reuters said a foreign intelligence service had warned Sri Lanka about possible attacks. Two government ministers also said publicly that there had been warnings, some specific to popular churches.

The Easter bombings were the deadliest incident in Sri Lanka since a 26-year-long civil war ended in 2009 between the country's mostly Buddhist Sinhalese majority and its Tamil minority, made up of Hindus, Christians, and Muslims. "While anti-Muslim bigotry has swept the island in recent years, fed by Buddhist nationalists, the island also has no history of violent Muslim militants," The Associated Press reports. "The country’s small Christian community has seen only scattered incidents of harassment in recent years." Peter Weber

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