Sri Lanka has held its first mass funeral as the country marks a day of mourning for the victims of Sunday’s bomb blasts.
The death toll from the attacks on churches and hotels has risen to 321 with about 500 wounded, police said.
The country has observed three minutes of silence and a state of emergency is in effect to prevent further attacks.
Sri Lanka’s government has blamed the blasts on local Islamist group National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ).
Police have now detained 40 suspects in connection with the attack. A spokesman said they included a Syrian who was arrested “after the interrogation of local suspects”.
What’s the latest?
Defence minister Ruwan Wijewardene told parliament on Tuesday that “preliminary investigations” indicated the bombings were in retaliation for deadly attacks on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March. He did not give any details.
Mr Wijewardene also said NTJ was linked to another radical Islamist group he named as JMI, but again he provided no further information.
Meanwhile, police in Colombo have been placed on high alert and told to search for a lorry and a van suspected to be carrying explosives, BBC Sinhala’s Azzam Ameen said.
Who are the victims?
The mass funeral for about 30 victims took place at St Sebastian church in Negombo, north of Colombo, which was one of the places targeted in Sunday’s blasts. Another funeral service was scheduled for later on Tuesday.
Earlier, a moment of silence was observed at 08:30, reflecting the time the first of six bombs detonated. Flags were lowered to half-mast and people, many of them in tears, bowed their heads in respect.
The death toll has risen to 310 victims and around 500 injured
The state of emergency gives police and the military sweeping powers to detain and interrogate suspects without court orders – powers that were last used during the nation’s civil war.
The government limited access to Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram after the blasts.
NTJ, the group named by the government as the main suspect, has no history of large-scale attacks but came to prominence last year when it was blamed for damaging Buddhist statues.
However, neither NTJ nor any other group has admitted carrying out Sunday’s bombings.
Were warnings ignored?
Sunday’s attacks have highlighted rifts in Sri Lanka’s leadership, after it emerged that authorities were warned about an imminent threat.
Security agencies had been watching the NTJ jihadist group, reports said, and had notified police about a possible attack.
But Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the cabinet were not informed, ministers said.
Authorities have declared a state of emergency
Cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said the information was not passed to Mr Wickremesinghe due to a rift between the prime minister and President Maithripala Sirisena.
However, it was not clear on Monday whether Mr Sirisena had been made aware of the warnings.
“Our understanding is that it was correctly circulated among security and police,” Shiral Lakthilaka, a senior adviser to Mr Sirisena, told the BBC.
He said that the president had appointed a special committee led by a supreme court judge to investigate what had happened.
How did the attacks unfold?
The first reports of explosions came at about 08:45 local time on Sunday with six blasts reported within a small space of time.
How the Sri Lanka attacks unfolded
Three churches in Negombo, Batticaloa and Colombo’s Kochchikade district are targeted during Easter services and blasts also rock the Shangri-La, Kingsbury and Cinnamon Grand hotels in the country’s capital.

Sri Lankan government closes school for two days.
Five hours after the initial attacks, a blast is reported near the zoo in Dehiwala, southern Colombo. This is the seventh explosion.

An eighth explosion is reported near the Colombo district of Dematagoda during a police raid, killing three officers.

14:15 local time

A member of the Sri Lankan Special Task Force (STF) pictured outside a house during a raid.
Image caption: A member of the Sri Lankan Special Task Force (STF) pictured outside a house during a raid. Image copyright by AFP
Sri Lankan government shuts down access to major social media messaging services

14:30 local time

Sri Lanka’s government declares an islandwide curfew from 18:00 local time to 06:00 (12:30 GMT-00:30).

14:45 local time

Reuters reports a petrol bomb attack on a mosque and arson attacks on two shops owned by Muslims in two different parts of the country, citing police.

22:00 local time

22 April 2019

Nationwide curfew is lifted.

06:00 local time

A “homemade” bomb found close to the main airport in the capital, Colombo, has been made safe, police say.

About 07:42 local time

Death toll leaps

08:30 local time

At least 290 people, including many foreigners, are now confirmed to have died. More than 500 are injured.

Another curfew is imposed from 20:00 local time to 04:00 23 April as a precautionary measure.

About 12:30 local time

Police in Colombo have recovered 87 low-explosive detonators from the Bastian Mawatha Private Bus Station in Pettah, the BBC’s Azzam Ameen reports.

About 15:27 local time

People flee after new explosion

About 16:18 local time

Video footage from St Anthony’s Shrine, shared by Guardian journalist Michael Safi, showed people running from the area in panic. According to BBC Sinhala’s Azzam Ameen, the blast happened while “security forces personnel… tried to defuse a newly discovered explosives in a vehicle”.

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Police have not yet released a breakdown of how many people were killed and wounded at each location.
All the attacks were carried out by suicide bombers, officials said.
Who were the victims?
Most of those who died were Sri Lankan nationals, including scores of Christians attending Easter Sunday church services.
In pictures: Sri Lanka’s day of deadly attacks
‘I thought we had left all this violence behind us’
UK dad’s tribute to family
One of the first victims to be publicly identified was Sri Lankan celebrity chef Shantha Mayadunne and her daughter Nisanga Mayadunne, who had posted a picture of the family having breakfast in the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo shortly before the deadly blast.
Sri Lankan officials said 38 foreign nationals were among the dead, with another 14 unaccounted for. The death toll includes at least eight British citizens and at least 10 Indian nationals.
Source: BBC


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