Sri Lanka declares emergency after terror attacks, death toll reaches 310
COLOMBO, Kyodo - Sri Lanka enforced a state of emergency Tuesday in the wake of Easter Sunday's deadly suicide bomb attacks on churches and hotels, while local media said the death toll has now reached 310.
The measure, which gives police and the military sweeping powers to detain suspects without court warrants, targets terrorism and would not limit freedom of expression, Indian media quoted a statement from Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena's press unit as saying.
“These will be limited to counter terrorism regulations. This is being done to allow the police and the three forces to ensure public security,” according to the statement.
Sirisena has set up a three-member special commission, including a Supreme Court justice, to investigate the attacks. The panel is expected to submit a report to the president within two weeks.
Sri Lanka has declared Tuesday to be a national day of mourning, and people across the country observed three minutes of silence to remember the victims. All schools in the country are closed until Wednesday. Christian private schools in and around Colombo will be closed until April 29.
The police have arrested 24 people in the wake of the attacks, which also injured more than 500.
While there was no claim of responsibility, the Sri Lankan government has suspected the involvement of National Thowfeek Jamaath, a little known local Islamist militant group, which may have the backing of international groups.
Local media, citing an intelligence official, are reporting that the local militant group may have been influenced by the Islamic State.
Health minister Rajitha Senaratne, who is also the Cabinet spokesman, said police units earlier this month received information that the leadership of National Thowfeek Jamaath was planning a series of attacks in the country.
In New York on Monday, the U.N. Security Council “condemned in the strongest terms the series of heinous and cowardly terrorist attacks.”
“The members of the Security Council reiterated that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed.”
The eight explosions, which occurred mostly in and around Colombo, mark the worst violence that the country has seen since the end of its civil war a decade ago.
A ninth explosion reportedly went off on Monday in a van parked near St. Anthony's Shrine, one of the three churches targeted the previous day, when bomb squad officials tried to defuse it.
It was also reported Monday that the Sri Lankan police found 87 bomb detonators at Colombo's main bus station. (Kyodo)