At least three police officers lost their lives during one of several raids in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo that resulted in the arrest of 13 suspected terrorists hours after suspected jihadis launched coordinated attacks on churches and luxury hotels on Easter Sunday, killing 290 and wounding more than 500 others.
The Associated Press (AP) reports:
Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardena described the [Easter Sunday] blasts as a terrorist attack by religious extremists, and police said 13 suspects had been arrested, though there was no immediate claim of responsibility. Wijewardena said most of the bombings were believed to have been suicide attacks.
Three police officers were killed during a search at a suspected safe house on the outskirts of Colombo when its occupants apparently detonated explosives to prevent arrest, authorities said.
“Officials have found 87 bomb detonators in Colombo, the country’s capital. Twelve detonators were at the main bus depot and 75 more in a garbage dump,” USA Today reveals.
In total, police officers have arrested 24 suspects since the terrorist attacks.
Late on Monday, Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena said he granted the military war-time powers to arrest suspects, USA Today reports, adding, “The military has not had such sweeping power since the country’s civil war. A curfew was also to begin at 8 p.m.”
Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne told reporters authorities believe the suicide bombers who carried out the attack are Sri Lankan, but they suspect foreign affiliation.
“We do not believe these attacks were carried out by a group of people who were confined to this country,” Senaratne declared, according to Reuters. “There was an international network without which these attacks could not have succeeded.”
The terrorists killed at least four Americans and injured several others, according to the U.S. Department of State (DOS).
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Associated Press (AP) reports that a government official has identified a jihadi group known as National Thowfeek Jamaath as the culprit behind the barbaric act.
Several news outlets noted that local officials raised the death toll on Monday, from 207 to 290, underscoring the massive scale of the carnage that marked the deadliest violence in the predominantly Buddhist nation since the end of its civil war in 2009.
Sri Lanka is also home to a significant number of Hindus, Muslims, and Christians.
The jihadis carried out several coordinated attacks in different parts of the country, targeting churches packed with worshipers celebrating Easter Sunday and some high-end hotels.
Some local officials suggest the Sri Lankan government may have had intelligence about the attacks prior to the deadly incidents.
In a statement issued Monday, Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs revealed that the suspected local jihadis killed at least 31 foreigners from various countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, India, Australia, China, Japan, Spain, and Portugal.
An additional 14 others are reported missing.