POST TIME: 25 April, 2019 10:52:58 PM / LAST MODIFIED: 26 April, 2019 09:21:52 AM
Sri Lanka Warns of More Suicide Bombers
Independent Online Desk/The New York times

Sri Lanka Warns of More Suicide Bombers

Soldiers in Negombo on Wednesday responding to a package believed to be a bomb.Credit Getty Images

Hundreds of police officers swept through Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Thursday, shutting down large parts of the capital city and looking urgently for six suspects — three men and three women — connected to the Easter Sunday attacks who might be planning a new wave of bloodshed.

The country’s defense secretary, Hemasiri Fernando, resigned after the president blamed him for failing to act on warnings of an impending assault. At least ten days before the attack, the Sri Lankan government had detailed intelligence that Islamist extremists were plotting suicide bombings at churches.

Sri Lanka’s Health Ministry conceded late Thursday night that it had overstated the death toll from the bombings on Sunday at three churches and three hotels, revising their estimate from at least 359 killed to between 250 and 260. In a written statement, the ministry cited the difficulty in counting when so many of the victims’ bodies were not intact.

Police officials said Thursday that they feared there were at least two people on the loose who had planned to be suicide bombers that day. The police said they had information that another attack was imminent, posted the suspects’ pictures on social media and urged anyone with information about the them to call a hotline.

The security services also circulated a memo saying that the group that carried out the Easter attacks could be “specifically targeting Sufi shrines.”

The authorities in Sri Lanka have blamed a local extremist Islamist group, National Thowheeth Jama’ath, for the bombings, and images posted online appear to show members of the group pledging allegiance to the Islamic State, which has claimed responsibility for the attacks. The local group follows a fundamentalist form of Islam that believes Sufi Muslims, who adhere to a mystical school of Islam, are heretics.

The tragedy on Sunday could have been much worse had it not been for a miscalculation by the attackers, officials said. One bomber arrived at the Taj Samudra, another luxury hotel, carrying explosives in a large backpack, but twice failed to trigger the fuse on the device.

The bomber then left the hotel for a motel a few kilometers away, where he died in an explosion. Officials say he was probably trying to fix the bomb when it detonated.