Islamic State takes ‘credit’ for bombings
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — As the death toll from the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka rose to 321 on Tuesday, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility and released images that purported to show the attackers, while the country’s prime minister warned that several suspects armed with explosives are still at large.
Another top government official said the suicide bombings at the churches, hotels and other sites were carried out by Islamic fundamentalists in apparent retaliation for the New Zealand mosque massacres last month that a white supremacist has been charged with carrying out.
The Islamic State group, which has lost all the territory it once held in Iraq and Syria, has made a series of unsupported claims of responsibility and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that investigators were still determining the extent of the bombers’ foreign links.
Sri Lankan authorities have blamed the attacks on National Towheed Jamaar, a little-known Islamic extremist group in the island nation. Its leader, alternately known as Mohammed Zahran or Zahran Hashmi, became known to Muslim leaders three years ago for his incendiary speeches online.
The IS group’s Aamaq news agency released an image purported to show the leader of the attackers, standing amid seven others whose faces are covered. The group did not provide any other evidence for its claim, and the identities of those depicted in the image were not independently verified.