Islamic State fighters carried out the Easter Sunday attacks against churches and hotels in Sri Lanka that killed at least 310 people, according to ISIS’s Amaq propaganda agency.
“A security source to Amaq agency: the implementers of the attacks which targeted nationals of Coalition member nations and Christians in Sri Lanka the day before yesterday were from fighters of the Islamic State,” the message posted on social media on Tuesday, April 23 read.
At least 310 people were killed when suicide bomb blasts ripped through three hotels and three churches as worshippers attended Easter services in Sri Lanka.
Earlier on Tuesday, Sri Lanka’s state minister of defense Ruwan Wijewardene told parliament that “preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch.”
Fifty people were killed in shooting attacks on two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch on March 15.
But New Zealand has “not yet seen” any intelligence reports linking the deadly bombings in Sri Lanka to last month’s mosque massacre in Christchurch, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s office said on Tuesday.
“We understand the Sri Lankan investigation into the attack is in its early stages,” Ardern’s spokesperson said. “New Zealand has not yet seen any intelligence upon which such an assessment might be based.”
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.
Little is known about JMI, other than reports it was established last year and is affiliated to a similarly named group in Bangladesh.
‘Family cell’ targeted hotels
Police sources in Sri Lanka told AFP that the attackers who targeted two of the hotels hit Sunday were Muslim brothers, sons of a wealthy Colombo spice trader.
The brothers, whose names have not been revealed, were in their late twenties and operated their own “family cell,” an investigation officer said, adding that they were key members of the NTJ.
Guests were queuing for breakfast at the Shangri-La and Cinnamon Spice hotels when the two men detonated their bombs.
A fourth attack against a hotel on Sunday failed, sources also told AFP, though it was not immediately clear if the bomber’s explosives had failed or he had chosen not to detonate them.
He later blew himself up when police tracked him to a lodging in the capital.
Police have detained at least 40 people as they investigate the attacks.