Colombo: Authorities in Sri Lanka continued their search operations with the help of the army and have arrested 16 more suspects in connection with the horrific Easter Sunday blasts in which more than 350 people were killed. The arrested were being interrogated at length by investigation sleuths in connection with the country’s deadliest attack.
Nine suicide bombers, believed to be the members of a local Islamist extremist group National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ), carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through three churches and three luxury hotels.
Officials said Thursday that with the arrest of 16 more people Wednesday, the total number of suspects under police custody has gone up to 76.
Many of the arrested people have suspected links to the NTJ, the group blamed for the bombings. However, the NTJ has not claimed responsibility for the attacks. The Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility for the attacks and identified suicide bombers who carried out the devastating blasts. Authorities have deployed a large number of army personnel to help police carry out search operations.
“During the last 24 hours, there have been no major incidents. We have deployed over 6,300 troops. This includes 1,000 from the Air Force and 600 from the Navy,” military spokesman Brigadier Sumith Atapattu said.
Search operations of suspected properties, arrests and detention of people and to place road blocks for such operations have been facilitated by the newly-enforced emergency regulations. The regulations were adopted Wednesday without a vote in Parliament.
President Maithripala Sirisena has convened an all-party meeting, Thursday and he would meet religious leaders also. Both parleys are to discuss the attacks dubbed as among the five deadliest terrorist attacks carried out since the 9/11 in the US.
Though Sirisena has asked police chief Pujith Jayasundera and defence ministry secretary Hemasiri Fernando to step down, there was no confirmation if they have resigned.