Defense official says Sri Lanka attacks ‘retaliation for Christchurch’ shootings
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Defense official says Sri Lanka attacks ‘retaliation for Christchurch’ shootings

State minister for defense says preliminary probe shows deadly suicide bombings in Sri Lanka that killed over 300 people were revenge for March assaults on New Zealand mosques

A view of St. Sebastian's Church damaged in blast in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka, April 21, 2019 hit by one of eight blasts that rocked churches and hotels in and just outside of Sri Lanka's capital on Easter Sunday. (AP/Chamila Karunarathne)
A view of St. Sebastian's Church damaged in blast in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka, April 21, 2019 hit by one of eight blasts that rocked churches and hotels in and just outside of Sri Lanka's capital on Easter Sunday. (AP/Chamila Karunarathne)

An initial probe into deadly suicide bomb attacks in Sri Lanka that killed more than 300 people shows it was “retaliation for Christchurch,” the country’s deputy defense minister said Tuesday.

“The preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka (on Sunday) was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch,” state minister of defense Ruwan Wijewardene told parliament.

According to the Guardian, one of the suspects in the bombings uploaded “extremist content” to social media in the wake of the March attacks in New Zealand. However, terror experts told the newspaper that the Sri Lanka attacks would have taken months of planning.

Wijewardene said investigations showed that a local group called National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ) was behind the attack and was linked to a little-known radical Islamist group in India.

“This National Thowheeth Jama’ath group which carried out the attacks had close links with JMI it has now been revealed,” Wijewardene told parliament, in an apparent reference to a group known as Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen India.

Residents pay respects by placing flowers for the victims of the mosques attacks at the Botanical Garden in Christchurch on March 16, 2019. (TESSA BURROWS / AFP)

Fifty people were killed in shooting attacks on two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch on March 15.

Australian Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 28, has been charged with murder in the Christchurch attacks. In a rambling “manifesto,” the gunman had said he was motivated partly by a desire to stoke a violent response from Muslims and a religious war between Islam and the West.

Security camera footage released late Monday showed a suspected suicide bomber entering a church in Sri Lanka’s Negombo with a backpack moments before the blast rocked the building, killing throngs of Easter worshipers inside.

As a state of emergency took effect Tuesday giving the Sri Lankan military wartime powers, police had arrested 40 suspects, reportedly including one Syrian national and the driver of a van allegedly used by suicide bombers involved in the deadly bombings, as well as the owner of a house where some of them lived, officials said.

Security personnel stand guard outside St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo on April 22, 2019, a day after the church was hit in a series of bomb blasts targeting churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka. (Jewel SAMAD / AFP)

The death toll from Sunday’s attacks rose to 310, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said.

On Tuesday, which President Maithripala Sirisena declared a day of mourning, Sri Lankan authorities planned to brief foreign diplomats and receive assistance from the FBI and other foreign intelligence-gathering agencies after officials disclosed Monday that warnings had been received weeks ago of the possibility of an attack by the radical Muslim group blamed for the bloodshed.

The six near-simultaneous attacks on three churches and three luxury hotels and three related blasts later Sunday were the South Asian island nation’s deadliest violence in a decade.

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