Colombo: The US Embassy in Sri Lanka warned Thursday that places of worship could be targeted for militant attacks over the coming weekend, as police searched for more suspects in the Islamic State-claimed Easter suicide bombings that killed over 350 people.
The stark warning came as Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told The Associated Press that he believed militants, likely with access to explosives, remained on the loose in the island nation off the southern tip of India.
Sri Lankan authorities are reporting that additional attacks may occur targeting places of worship. Avoid these areas over the weekend, starting tomorrow, April 26th through Sunday, April 28th. Continue to remain vigilant and avoid large crowds. #srilanka pic.twitter.com/4kjd57Dcty— U.S. Embassy Colombo (@USEmbSL) April 25, 2019
With the US issuing a warning, Britain too on Thursday warned against "all but essential travel" to Sri Lanka following the terror attacks.
"The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all but essential travel to Sri Lanka, due to the current evolving security situation following attacks on 21 April 2019," the ministry said on its website.
It added that terrorists "are very likely" to try to carry out further attacks, which "could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners."
"The extent of any continued threat following the 21 April attacks remains unclear," it said.
Eight British nationals were among those killed in the deadly Easter bombings that targeted tourists and Christian worshippers.
The British government told citizens already in the country to "remain vigilant, keep up to date with developments, follow the advice of local security authorities... keep a low profile and avoid crowded public places."
A small team of specialist officers from Britain's Metropolitan Police have been deployed to Sri Lanka to support families of victims and repatriate their bodies, the force said on Tuesday.
The police said they were not helping with the investigation "at this stage", but added that "should any request come... then this will be considered accordingly."
Across Colombo and in Negombo, the seaside city north of the capital where a bombing killed 110 people, residents and office workers stayed indoors and closed up shops Thursday, leaving both cities unusually quiet.
The attacks Easter Sunday, mainly at churches and hotels, killed at least 359 people and wounded 500 more, the government said Wednesday. Most were Sri Lankan but the Foreign Ministry confirmed on Thursday that 40 foreigners died.
The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attacks. Authorities remain unsure of the group's involvement, though they are investigating whether foreign militants advised, funded or guided the local bombers.
(With Inputs from AP and AFP)