Sri Lanka blames Muslim group for Easter horror

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The U.S. State Department issued a travel warning that said there was a threat of more attacks. The others targeted three churches and two other hotels. Suicide bombers also struck the Kochikade church near the Colombo harbor, a church in Negombo, north of Colombo, and the Zion church in Batticaloa in the Eastern province. "We are now investigating global support for the group and their other links", he added.

A Sri Lankan government official says a domestic militant group named National Thowfeek Jamaath is responsible for the Easter Sunday suicide bombings.

The group has no history of large-scale attacks but came to prominence past year when it was blamed for damaging Buddhist statues.

Fear of more blasts gripped the country on Monday as 87 bomb detonators were found at Colombo's main bus station and an explosion in a van parked near one of the bombed churches sent passers-by fleeing. Armed soldiers and bomb-sniffing dogs had replaced the tourists that usually crowd the beach facing the hotel district.

The first reports of explosions came at about 08:45 local time with six blasts reported within a small space of time. Two more blasts were reported in the afternoon.

Spokeswoman Amy Mills urged Canadians in Colombo, the nation's capital, to limit their movements, avoid impacted areas, and take direction from local authorities.

The statement also said the government would implement anti-terrorism measures that give police additional powers, effective at midnight. Authorities said 24 people have been arrested so far, but police have given no details about the detainees.

Five other seemingly coordinated explosions took place across the country in four luxury hotels, where guests were enjoying their Easter brunch, and in a separate location in the capital city of Colombo, including in a housing complex.

"A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo", the April 11 alert reportedly said.

"This is by all accounts an intelligence failure".

The Prime Minister, however, made it a point to stress that the while the police are investigating the case, civil society and the political class should attend to the need to preserve peace and communal harmony and not be carried away by rumors. The country ended a decades-long civil war 10 years ago, but the protagonists were the central government and a breakaway militia based on the Tamil ethnic group, which is mostly Hindu.

Cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said, "We are very, very sorry".

The vast majority of those killed are thought to be Sri Lankan nationals, including scores of Christians who died at Easter church services.

The United States pledged support for the investigation, dispatching FBI agents to help. A compensation of 1 million Sri Lankan rupees has been announced for families of those who died and 100,000 Sri Lankan rupees will be given for funerals, Senaratne added.

Theravada Buddhism is Sri Lanka's biggest religious group, making up about 70.2% of the population, according to the most recent census.

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