Sri Lanka responds with emergency regulations to the attacks with 290 dead: military and police receive far-reaching powers. An Interpol expert team should help with the investigation.
At midnight local time, emergency regulations came into force after the attacks in Sri Lanka. The Security Council of the government has decided to give the military and police far-reaching powers, said the office of President Maithripala Sirisena.
Sirisena called a three-member team to investigate the attacks and present a first report in three weeks. The international police organization Interpol announced that it would send a team of experts to Sri Lanka. The panel will include specialists in the areas of crime scene investigation, explosives, counterterrorism and victim identification.
„Information to identify those involved in these attacks could come from anywhere in the world,“ Interpol Secretary-General Jürgen Stock said. Here, the organization’s global network and databases proved essential. Currently, the database of stolen and lost travel documents is being reviewed to identify possible links or international lanes.
Islamist group NTJ suspected
Police have now arrested 24 suspects who are being interrogated. All come from Sri Lanka, according to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
The government of Sri Lanka blames the local Islamist group National Thowheeth Jamaath (NTJ) for the series of attacks, which appeared for the first time in December. At that time, it was accused of damaging Buddhist statues, which caused an outcry amongst the largely Buddhist population. NTJ leader Abdul Razik has been detained multiple times and charged with incitement to religious unrest.
According to the government, the assassins on Easter Sunday had support from abroad: „There was an international network, without which these attacks would not have succeeded,“ said cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said that Sri Lanka, with the help of the international community, wanted to get to the bottom of the country’s connections with assassins.
At least 290 dead, more than 500 injured
Several bombings targeting Christian churches and tourist shelters killed at least 270 people. According to the Department of Defense, they are a total of seven suicide bombers – whether these are counted by the authorities to the dead, is not known. More than 500 other people were injured.
Among the victims are mainly Sri Lankans and at least 35 foreigners. One of them is a US citizen who, according to the Foreign Office, also had a German passport. Nothing was known about further German victims. Major tour operators reported that their guests in Sri Lanka are well.
Social networks unreachable
As a result of the attacks and the subsequent tightening of security measures, there are currently restrictions on the island, which is a popular tourist destination. In addition to a nocturnal curfew, the authorities had temporarily cut access to social networks of the Facebook group and messenger apps such as Viber and Snapchat. The reason was that there panic and false reports had spread to the attacks.
The state of emergency is likely to be familiar to Sri Lankan citizens from the 26-year civil war that ended in 2009. Security forces were then allowed to search homes without a court order. Suspects could be detained for three months by order of the Ministry of Defense, without showing them to a judge.
With the end of the war, the ethnic tensions between Sinhalese and Tamils did not completely ebb away – since there are Christians in both population groups, some of them were seen as mediators. Islamist terror was previously unknown in the island state.