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Sri Lankan Official Says Bombings Are Retaliation For New Zealand Massacre

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Relatives place flowers after the burial of three family members who died in an Easter Sunday bomb blast at St. Sebastian Church in Negombo, Sri Lanka, on Monday.
Gemunu Amarasinghe, AP

Relatives place flowers after the burial of three family members who died in an Easter Sunday bomb blast at St. Sebastian Church in Negombo, Sri Lanka, on Monday.

A Sri Lankan government official says coordinated suicide bombings in the island nation on Easter Sunday, which killed more than 320 people, were carried out in retaliation for last month's mass shooting at mosques in New Zealand.

The state minister for defense, Ruwan Wijewardene, said the attacks were carried out by two Islamist organizations. As NPR's Lauren Frayer reports, "it's not immediately clear how he knows that – whether the information comes from suspects being interrogated, or evidence the suicide bombers may have left behind."

One of the organizations is a little-known radical Islamist group named National Thowfeek Jamaath. Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne has called for the top police official to resign after failing to stop the attacks despite receiving reports that the group was planning to target churches, The Washington Post reports.

In the weeks leading up to the attacks, parts of the Sri Lankan government received intelligence reports from international agencies, including India, indicating a possible plot to attack targets in Sri Lanka.

"What the allegation is, is that portions of the government — the security services, the police — did not do enough in advance to alert the Christian community, to alert hotels that they could be targets," Shashank Bengali, Southeast Asia correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, told NPR's Up First. "That's where the war of words and the finger-pointing has got us right now."

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Police in Sri Lanka say they have arrested 40 suspects since the wave of deadly suicide attacks Sunday killed hundreds and wounded hundreds more.

According to The Associated Press, among the suspects arrested were the driver of a van allegedly used by suicide bombers, and the owner of a house where some of the attackers lived. Most of the people arrested are Sri Lankans, but police are also investigating whether foreigners were involved in the attacks.

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