The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for a wave of coordinated bombings at high-end hotels and churches across Sri Lanka.
The terrorist organization announced in a statement in Arabic published by its Amaq news agency on Tuesday that the attackers were among the fighters of the Islamic State, as per the translation by SITE Intelligence Group, a company that tracks extremist groups. The organization provided no evidence to support the claim.
Prime Minister of Sri Lanka Ranil Wickremesinghe acknowledged the claim when answering questions from reporters during a press conference in Colombo.
“There are foreign links is all that we knew before this and this couldn’t have been done just locally, there must has been training done and a coordination which we haven’t seen earlier,” Wickremesinghe said.
At least 310 people were killed and another 500 got injured on Sunday when explosions took place almost simultaneously at eight locations across the island nation, which is located off the southern tip of India.
Three explosions erupted at churches which were holding Easter services while three happened at hotels, including some very commonly used by Western tourists. Suicide bombers detonated most of the explosions, according to the Sri Lankan defense ministry.
The first funerals of the victims were held on Tuesday.
Among those killed, at least 4 were Americans, according to a U.S. official who briefed on the investigation. On Monday, one of the Americans was identified as Dieter Kowalski, 40, of Denver, according to his mother and Pearson, the London based global education company where he was employed.
There were at least 45 children among the dead, including at least five who were not of Sri Lankan origin, according to a spokesman for the United Nations Children’s Fund, Christophe Boulierac.
The state minister of defense, Ruwan Wijewardene, told the Sri Lankan parliament on Tuesday that authorities have information showing Sunday’s blasts were carried out in retaliation for last month’s attacks on two mosques in New Zealand that had killed 50 people.
Rajitha Senaratne, Sri Lanka’s health minister, on Monday blamed the deadly blasts on a little-known domestic Muslim militant group named National Thowfeek Jamaath.
So far, at least 40 suspects have been arrested around the country in connection to the Easter explosions. Twenty-six of them are being questioned by the criminal investigations department, while three were being held by the terrorist investigations unit.