Sri Lankan priests and policemen look at the debris of a car after it explodes on Monday. Jewel Samad/AFP
Sri Lankan police detained a Syrian among 40 people being questioned about the Easter on Sunday attacks on churches and hotels, government and military sources said on Tuesday, as the toll from the coordinated bomb attacks rose to 321.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which officials said were carried out by at least seven suicide bombers on three churches and four hotels. About 500 people were also wounded.
However, the focus of suspicion is falling on militants with links to foreign groups. US intelligence sources said the attacks bore some of the hallmarks of the Daesh extremist group.
Tuesday was declared a national day of mourning and the funerals of some of the victims were held as pressure mounted on the government over why effective action had not been taken in response to a warning this month about a possible attack on churches by a little-known domestic militant group.
Police said the number of people arrested since Sunday had risen to 40, most of them Sri Lankans. The investigation of those detainees had led to the Syrian, three government and military sources told Reuters.
"He was arrested after the interrogation of local suspects," one of the sources said.
The first six attacks — on three churches and three luxury hotels - came within 20 minutes on Sunday morning during Easter services and as hotels served breakfast.
Two more explosions - at a down-market hotel and a house in a suburb of the capital, Colombo - came in the early afternoon.
Most of the dead and wounded were Sri Lankans, although government officials said 38 foreigners were killed. That included British, U.S., Australian, Turkish, Indian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch and Portuguese nationals.
Daesh's claim, issued on its AMAQ news agency, came shortly after Sri Lanka said two domestic militant groups, with suspected links to foreign militants, were believed to have been behind the attacks at three churches and four hotels, which wounded about 500 people.
Intelligence warnings from abroad alerting to possible attacks by Islamist extremists were ignored ahead of the multiple bombings of churches and upscale hotels on April 21 that killed 253 people and injured nearly 500.
Police on Monday said they had found 87 bomb detonators at a Colombo bus station, a day after a string of attacks on churches and hotels that killed nearly 300 people.
The shootout between troops and suspected militants erupted on Friday evening in Sainthamaruthu in Ampara district, to the south of the town of Batticaloa, site of one of the Easter Sunday blasts at three churches and four luxury hotels.
In a statement, it mentioned that 793 people have recovered and 1 person passed away in the last 24 hours.
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Authorities said mosques in each emirate would open for Friday prayers provided they abide by the COVID-19 precautionary protocols.
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