Sri Lankan Bombing Death Toll Lowered As Country Braces For More Attacks
Sri Lanka, on Thursday, lowered the death toll from the Easter suicide bombings by nearly one-third to 253, as authorities hunted urgently for a least five more suspects and braced for the possibility of more attacks in the coming days.
In rolling back the number of dead from 359, a top Health Ministry official, Dr. Anil Jasinghe, said in a statement that the blasts had damaged some bodies beyond recognition, making accurate identification difficult. This is according to abcnews.
Religious leaders, meanwhile, canceled public prayer gatherings amid warnings of more such attacks, along with retaliatory sectarian violence. In an unusually specific warning, the U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka said places of worship could be hit by extremists this weekend.
At least 58 people have been arrested in connection with the wave of blasts at churches and luxury hotels last Sunday, according to police, including the father of two of the alleged suicide bombers — one of Sri Lanka’s wealthiest spice traders. Authorities have said those involved in the bloodbath were well-educated and well-off financially.
Sri Lankan authorities have blamed a local Muslim extremist group, National Towheed Jamaat. The Islamic State group also claimed responsibility, though officials are still investigating the extent of any involvement.
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said militants who may have explosives remain on the loose in the country and “may go out for a suicide attack.”
“We have rounded up a lot of suspects, but there are still active people on the run,” Wickremesinghe said in an interview with The Associated Press. “They may be having explosives with them, so we have to find them.”
Police appealed for information about an additional three women and two men suspected of involvement in the bombings.
The bloodshed stirred fears of more sectarian violence in Sri Lanka, a country of 23 million people, about 70% of them Buddhist, with the rest Muslims, Hindus, and Christians.
“Sri Lankan authorities are reporting that additional attacks may occur targeting places of worship,” the U.S. Embassy warned on Twitter. “Avoid these areas over the weekend, starting tomorrow.”