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Sri Lanka massacre suspects 'all dead or arrested'

Sri Lankan military forces search in the home town of the suicide bombers [Getty]

Date of publication: 7 May, 2019

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73 suspects have been arrested by Sri Lankan police since the Easter bombings on the island.

All those directly involved in the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka which killed 257 people are either dead or under arrest, police said.

Acting police chief C.D. Wickramaratne also said in a statement late Monday that two bomb experts were among the suicide attackers who struck the churches and hotels, adding that explosives the group stacked for use in more attacks have been seized.

The bombings killed and wounded hundreds at three churches and three hotels. Seven suicide bombers died at their targets while another exploded his device later at a guesthouse after his device failed at a leading tourist hotel. A ninth killed herself to avoid capture by police at her home.

73 suspects have been detained for investigations since the bombings and stocks of explosives, improvised explosives devices and hundreds of swords have been seized in a security crackdown in the aftermath of the attacks.

Also they have found $140,000 in cash in bank accounts connected to the group and another $40 million worth of assets in land, houses, vehicles and jewelry.

Investigators are still tracking down 10 more key players associated with plotting the bombings, a military source told Reuters on Tuesday.

Authorities had repeatedly said another attack from the Islamic State-linked extremist group was possible.

Comment: For my Muslim family in Sri Lanka, life has changed forever

Two little-known Sri Lankan Islamist groups, the National Tawheed Jamaath (NTJ) and Jamathei Millathu Ibrahim (JMI), are believed to have been behind the attack.

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation, Interpol and other international investigators are helping Sri Lanka with the investigation - trying to ascertain the sources of funding and the link to Islamic State.

Sri Lanka's Catholic church hierarchy closed churches for a second weekend on Sunday as the faithful celebrated Mass from home watching live on television.

But on Tuesday, one of the churches targeted in the attacks, St. Anthony's Shrine in Colombo, opened a section of the church to the public for the first time since the bombing, enabling devotees to pray in the church as was customary every Tuesday.

Catholic schools remain closed until further notice after reports said two of their locations were to be attacked last weekend.

Government-run schools reopened for students of higher classes Monday but fewer students attended out of fear.

Army Commander Mahesh Senanayake on Monday urged the public to resume normal activities trusting in the security forces.

"I ask the people not to fear unnecessarily, not to believe rumors...believe in the tri-forces and police that defeated one of deadliest terrorist organizations in the world," he said of the ethnic Tamil separatists who fought a 26-year civil war. The conflict ended 10 years ago.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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