You are here

Sri Lanka imposes emergency, says int'l network behind attacks

BT_20190423_NAHBLAST23_3760810.jpg
Sri Lankan soldiers inspecting the damage inside St Sebastian's Church where a bomb blast took place in Negombo, on Monday. Sri Lanka has blamed local jihadist group National Thawheed Jama'ut for one of Asia's deadliest terrorist attacks in years.

Colombo

SRI Lanka said on Monday it was invoking emergency powers in the aftermath of devastating bomb attacks on hotels and churches, and blamed on militants with foreign links.

An estimated 290 people were killed and nearly 500 wounded in the attacks.

The emergency law, which gives police and the military extensive powers to detain and interrogate suspects without court orders, was to go into effect at midnight on Monday, the president's office said.

sentifi.com

Market voices on:

Colombo, the capital, was jittery on Monday. Police said 87 bomb detonators were found at the city's main bus station, while an explosive went off near a church where scores were killed on Sunday when bomb squad officials were trying to defuse it.

A night curfew was to go into effect at 8pm, the government announced.

There was no claim of responsibility for the attacks but suspicion was focusing on Islamist militants in the Buddhist-majority country.

Investigators said seven suicide bombers took part in the attacks while a government spokesman said an international network was involved.

Police had received a tip-off of a possible attack on churches by a little-known domestic Islamist group some 10 days ago, according to a document seen by Reuters.

The intelligence report, dated April 11 and seen by Reuters, said a foreign intelligence agency had warned authorities of possible attacks on churches by the leader of the group, the National Thawheed Jama'ut. It was not immediately clear what action, if any, was taken on the tip-off.

Police said 24 people had been arrested, all of whom were Sri Lankan, but they gave no more details.

International anti-terrorism experts said even if a local group had carried out the attacks, it was likely that al Qaeda or Islamic State were involved, given the level of sophistication.

Two of the suicide bombers blew themselves up at the luxury Shangri-La Hotel on Colombo's seafront, said Ariyananda Welianga, a senior official at the government's forensic division. The others targeted three churches and two other hotels.

A fourth hotel and a house in a suburb of the capital Colombo were also hit, but it was not immediately clear how those attacks were carried out.

"Still the investigations are going on," Mr Welianga said.

Meanwhile, tourists are scrambling to leave Sri Lanka and hotels are bracing for cancellations after the deadly terrorist attack. Holidaymakers are flocking to the main airport, cutting short their vacations in the wake of the coordinated blasts on Easter Sunday.

Kishu Gomes, chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, said he couldn't give an exact count of the number of people leaving, but it could run into the thousands. Tour operators in India, the biggest source market for visitors to Sri Lanka, are also cancelling trips for clients. That would hurt an industry that contributes almost 5 per cent to the economy.

At home, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has issued a travel advisory, asking Singaporeans to defer all non-essential travels to Sri Lanka.

Some foreign governments have also warned their citizens that there could be more attacks, according to the MFA travel advisory issued on Monday. "If you are already in Sri Lanka, you are strongly advised to exercise vigilance and take all necessary precautions for your personal safety, including to monitor the news closely and heed the instructions of the local authorities," it said. "You should avoid public places where there are large gatherings of people."

The advisory also called on Singaporeans there to "stay in touch with your family and friends so that they know you are safe". It added: "You should also purchase comprehensive travel insurance and be familiar with the terms and coverage."

Singaporeans are strongly encouraged to eRegister with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at https://eregister.mfa.gov.sg/.

Those in need of consular assistance may contact the Honorary Consulate - General in Colombo or Ministry of Foreign Affairs Duty Office at: Honorary Consulate - General in Colombo, Sri Lanka No 73, Sir James Peiris Mawatha Colombo 02, Sri Lanka Telephone: +94-11-5577300, +94-11-2304444, +94-11-5577111. REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

READ MORE: Sri Lanka's pain is going to spread