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Death toll in Sri Lanka attacks rises to 321

Sri Lanka attacks
A grieving woman is supported during a funeral service attended by Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith for Easter Sunday bomb blast victims at St. Sebastian Church in Negombo, Sri Lanka, Tuesday, April 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) – Sri Lanka’s minister of defense says the Easter Sunday bombings were “carried out in retaliation” for attacks on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15.

Ruwan Wijewardene made the comment to lawmakers in Parliament on Tuesday, without providing evidence or explaining where the information came from.

He said the toll from coordinated bombings at churches, luxury hotels and other sites now stands at 321 people dead and 500 injured.

A warning shared with Sri Lankan security agencies on April 11 said a local group was planning a suicide terror attack against churches.

Priyalal Disanayaka, the deputy inspector general of police, signed the letter addressed to the directors of four Sri Lankan security agencies. He asked the four security directors to “pay extra attention” to the places and VIPs in their care.

The intelligence report attached to his letter called the group National Towheed Jamaar, said it was targeting “some important churches” in a suicide terrorist attack that was planned to take place “shortly.” The report named six individuals likely to be involved in the plot.

On Monday, Sri Lanka’s health minister held up a copy of the report while describing its contents, spurring questions about what Sri Lanka police had done to protect the public from an attack.

Meanwhile, authorities are further increasing security measures after the Easter suicide bombings.

Police issued orders Tuesday that anyone parking a car on the street and leaving unattended must put a note with their phone number on the windshield. Postal officials also said they would no longer accept pre-wrapped parcels for mailing.

The country is under a state of emergency and the military is operating under enhanced war-time powers following the attacks.

(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Associated Press

Associated Press

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