Sri Lanka arrests 40 suspects after bombings, toll up to 321

A man cries as he walks behind the coffin of a bomb blast victim after a funeral service at St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo on April 23, 2019 in Colombo. (AFP)

As a state of emergency took effect on Tuesday giving the Sri Lankan military war-time powers, police arrested 40 suspects, including the driver of a van allegedly used by the suicide bombers and the owner of a house where some of them lived.

Sri Lanka’s president Maithripala Sirisena gave the military a wider berth to detain and arrest suspects - powers that were used during the 26-year civil war but withdrawn when it ended in 2009.

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said the death toll from Sunday’s attacks rose to 321, with several people dying of their injuries overnight, a police spokesman said Tuesday.

Around 500 people were wounded in the blasts, Ruwan Gunasekera said in a statement.

He added that 40 people were now under arrest in connection with the attacks, which Sri Lanka’s government has blamed on a previously little-known local Islamist group, National Thowheeth Jama’ath.

On Monday, officials disclosed that warnings had been received weeks ago of the possibility of an attack by the radical group. 

Nationwide three-minute silence observed 

Early Tuesday, Sri Lankans across the island nation observed three minutes of silence to pay tribute to nearly 321 people killed in a string of suicide attacks.

National flags were lowered and people bowed their heads as the silence began at 8:30 am local time (0300 GMT), the time the first of six attacks occurred on Sunday.

The government has declared a full day of national mourning on Tuesday, with flags at all government institutions lowered to half mast, liquor shops ordered shut and radio stations and television channels expected to play somber music.

At St Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo where the first suicide bomb detonated on Sunday morning, a crowd of several dozen people held up candles and prayed silently, palms pressed together, eyes squeezed shut.

Some of them struggled to hold back tears, and as the three minutes drew to a close, the crowd began to recite prayers. 

Sri Lanka travel advisory issued for Emiratis 

In the UAE, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, (MoFAIC), has issued a warning cautioning UAE citizens against traveling to Sri Lanka following the current events taking place in the country, reports WAM.

In a statement issued on Sunday, the ministry also urged Emiratis currently in Sri Lanka to exercise caution and to return back to the UAE.

(With Agencies)

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:55 - GMT 06:55
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