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Improvised Bomb Defused Near Colombo Airport Hours After Eight Blasts Killed 290 in Sri Lanka

The development comes after eight explosions ripped through the island nation, killing 290 people and injuring at least 450 in the decade's worst terror strike.


Updated:April 22, 2019, 5:09 PM IST

Colombo: An improvised pipe bomb discovered close to Colombo’s main airport was successfully diffused by the Sri Lanka air force, police said. A police source said a "homemade" pipe bomb had been found late on Sunday on a road leading towards the main terminal, which remains open with heavy security after deadly attacks on churchs and hotels.

Air force spokesperson Group Captain Gihan Seneviratne said the IED was believed to be locally manufactured.

The development comes after eight explosions ripped through the island nation, killing 290 people and injuring at least 450 in the decade's worst terror strike. Powerful explosions struck in quick succession at three hotels in the capital Colombo. The Cinnamon Grand was hit at around 8:30 am (0300 GMT), and the high-end Shangri-La soon after at 9:05 am.

Three churches were also targeted in that wave of blasts: Colombo's historic St Anthony's Shrine, the St Sebastian's church in the town of Negombo — north of the capital — and the Zion Church in the east-coast town of Batticaloa.

Hours later, there were two more blasts — one of them at another Colombo hotel. At least two of the eight were carried out by suicide bombers, according to police. The blasts hit the churches when they were full of worshippers gathered for Easter services. An AFP photographer saw bodies and debris lying on the floor at St Anthony's. By Sunday evening, Sri Lanka's local news agencies said that the toll stood at 262 dead and 452 people were injured.

Police said 35 foreigners were among the dead, including British, Dutch, Portuguese, Chinese and American citizens, with the US and Britain later confirming their nationals were killed. Hospital sources also said British, Dutch and American citizens were among those killed, with Britons and Japanese also injured. According to sources, nine foreign nationals are still missing.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe declined to identify any suspected perpetrators. However, according to intelligence report, National Thowheed Jama'ath of Sri Lanka is behind the blasts.

At least 13 people have been arrested in connection with the attacks, police said, and investigators would look into whether the attackers had "overseas links". Of the 13, 10 suspects have been handed over to the CID.

The island nation has suffered deadly militant attacks for years, especially by ethnic Tamil militants during a decades-long civil war that ended in 2009 when Sri Lankan forces crushed the insurgency.

In recent years, there have been clashes between the majority Sinhalese Buddhist community and minority Muslims, and in March last year the government imposed a 12-day state of emergency to quell anti-Muslim riots. Christian groups have also complained of increased harassment from hardline Buddhist groups.

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