The Sri Lankan government is identifying a national Islamist group, National Thowheeth Jama’ath, as the people behind the church and hotel bombings on Sunday. Minister of Health Rajitha Senaratne specified the NTJ during an official statement detailing the immediate results of their investigation. He also extended the blame:
“We do not believe these attacks were carried out by a group of people who were confined to this country,” cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said.
“There was an international network without which these attacks could not have succeeded.”BBC
The NTJ had been known, prior to Sunday, primarily as an anti-Buddhist group responsible for vandalizing Buddhist statuary.
The death toll stands at over 290 people, with more than another 500 injured. 24 people have been arrested in connection to the blasts, all of whom are Sri Lankan citizens. 7 more conspirators perished in the attacks, most of which were triggered via suicide bombs. The attacks happened in multiple cities, more than 200 miles apart.
After the explosions, police investigation led to raids on two homes. Both raids triggered further blasts, one of which killed three policemen. Further investigation led to the discovery of a large improvised explosive device near the Columbo airport and a number of detonators in a bus station in Pettah.
Another explosive device was found in a van near St. Anthony’s church on Monday; it was safely detonated by the Sri Lankan police, according to the Sri Lankan Daily Mirror.
No group has officially claimed responsibility. While smaller attacks are often followed by such announcements, it is not uncommon that responsibility is avoided after large attacks which draw condemnation from prominent Islamic nations and potential interest from international military powers.
Fears of escalating religious violence are of concern to the police in Sri Lanka. According to the Straits Times, law enforcement reports that “late on Sunday there had been a petrol bomb attack on a mosque in the northwest and arson attacks on two shops owned by Muslims in the west.”
Three of the four children of Anders Holch Povlsen died in the Easter Sunday attacks. Povlsen is Denmark’s wealthiest man and Scotland’s largest landowner, with a net worth of just under $8 billion US dollars.