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The Latest: Sri Lankan ministers warn of more attacks

April 30, 2019
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Soldiers return to their base following an operation searching for explosives and suspects tied to a local group of Islamic State militants in Kalmunai, Sri Lanka, Monday, April 29, 2019. The Catholic Church in Sri Lanka on Monday has urged the government to crack down on Islamic extremists with more vigor "as if on war footing" in the aftermath of the Easter bombings. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — The Latest on the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka (all times local):

5:35 p.m.

A Sri Lankan Cabinet minister says he and seven others have received intelligence that the group behind the Easter Sunday bombings could strike the island nation again.

Minister of Health Rajitha Senarathna said Tuesday that the government ministers have been warned that they have been identified as targets of possible additional suicide attacks.

Senarathna said intelligence officials specifically told him to stay at home on Sunday and Monday because of the threat of another attack from the Islamic State-linked Muslim extremist group.

The coordinated bombings at churches and luxury hotels killed more than 250 people.

Since then, the government has arrested dozens of people and confiscated bomb-making materials from suspected safe houses.

Officials have warned that suspects linked to the attacks are still at large.

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3:20 p.m.

Sri Lanka’s top Catholic Church official says the search by authorities for additional suspects and explosives linked to the Easter bombings has been inadequate, particularly in Negombo, the seaside village where one of the blasts killed about 100 people.

The archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, told reporters Tuesday that a government ban on face veils was good but didn’t go far enough to protect believers from further attacks.

In a video Monday, a man who claimed to be the shadow leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, called the Sri Lankan suicide bombers “a thorn in the chests of the crusaders.”

Ranjith said he couldn’t ask al-Baghdadi to “pay compensation” for the dead, but could only “present this case to God’s court.”

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2:10 p.m.

Authorities in Bangladesh say they’re investigating the Islamic State group’s claim of responsibility for an explosion in the capital that injured three police officers.

Police in Dhaka said Tuesday that a “very powerful” crude bomb thrown by unidentified assailants at a shopping complex late Monday injured two traffic officers and a community police officer who were being treated at a local hospital.

Global terrorism monitor SITE Intelligence says the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack on “apostate policemen” without producing evidence.

The shadowy leader of the Islamic State group claimed to appear for the first time in five years in a video released by the extremist group’s propaganda arm on Monday. The man said to be Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in the video also claimed the Easter Day bombings in Sri Lanka that killed over 250 people were “part of the revenge” that awaits the West.

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1:35 p.m.

India’s investigative agency says it has arrested a 29-year-old Indian man who has identified himself as a follower of the alleged leader of the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka and was plotting a suicide attack in the southern Indian state of Kerala.

The National Investigation Agency said in a statement late Monday that Riyas A., also known as Riyas Aboobacker, was arrested. It said three others were brought in for questioning related to suspected links to the Islamic State group, which has claimed the April 21 Sri Lanka attacks that killed more than 250 people.

The statement did not provide any details about Aboobacker’s alleged plot in Kerala. But according to the statement, Aboobacker said during questioning that he’s been following the speeches and videos of Mohammed Zahran, the militant who Sri Lankan authorities said led the Easter attack, for more than a year.

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Noon

Sri Lanka’s president has lifted a nationwide social media ban that was imposed after Easter suicide bomb attacks that killed 253 people.

A government statement Tuesday said that President Maithripala Sirisena has lifted the ban that blocked Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube and other popular sites. It asked the public to “act in a responsible manner” on social media.

The government said it blocked social media in the wake of the bombings at churches and luxury hotels to curb the spread of misinformation.

The move comes a day after the Islamic State group’s shadowy leader claimed to appear for the first time in five years in video released by the extremist group’s propaganda arm. He claimed the bombings in Sri Lanka were “part of the revenge” that awaits the West.

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