All directly involved in Sri Lanka attacks dead or arrested
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Two bomb experts were among the suicide attackers who struck churches and hotels on Easter in Sri Lanka and all those directly involved in the bombings are either dead or under arrest, police said.
Acting police chief C.D. Wickramaratne also said in a statement that explosives the Islamic State-linked group stocked for use in more attacks have been seized.
The bombings killed 257 people and wounded hundreds at three churches and three hotels. Seven suicide bombers died at their targets while another exploded his device later at a guesthouse after it failed to detonate at a leading tourist hotel. A ninth killed herself to avoid capture by police at her home.
Police have detained 73 suspects for investigation since the bombings and have seized stocks of explosives, improvised explosive devices and hundreds of swords. They also found $140,000 in cash in bank accounts connected to the group and another $40 million worth of assets in land, houses, vehicles and jewelry, police said late Monday.
President Maithripala Sirisena said in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday that “all” of the suspects’ explosives, weapons, safe houses and training centers have been found in the 16 days since the blasts.
He said those things weren’t discovered earlier because of weaknesses in Sri Lanka’s intelligence divisions.
Authorities have repeatedly said another attack from the extremist group is possible, but Sirisena said it is now safe for tourists to return.
“The country is in a safe position right now,” he said.
Sri Lanka’s Catholic church hierarchy closed churches for a second weekend on Sunday as the faithful celebrated Mass from home watching live on television.
But on Tuesday, one of the churches targeted in the attacks, St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, opened part of the building to the public for the first time since the bombing, enabling devotees to pray in the church as was customary every Tuesday.
Catholic schools remain closed after reports said two of their locations were to be attacked last weekend.
Government-run schools reopened for students in higher classes Monday but fewer students attended out of fear.
Army Commander Mahesh Senanayake on Monday urged the public to resume normal activities and trust in the security forces.
“I ask the people not to fear unnecessarily, not to believe rumors ... believe in the tri-forces and police that defeated one of deadliest terrorist organizations in the world,” he said, referring to ethnic Tamil separatists who fought a 26-year civil war. The conflict ended 10 years ago.
The air force warned Tuesday that it will shoot down drones in the country’s airspace if necessary, saying they are a threat to national security. Authorities banned drones after last month’s attacks, but some have been operated in some parts of the country, air force spokesman Gihan Seneviratne said.