PHOTOS: Bombings turn Easter into tragedy in Sri Lanka

A suspected suicide bomber enters St. Sebastian's Church in Negombo, Sri Lanka, on April 21, 2019, in this still image taken from closed-circuit TV footage of the attacks. (Photo: CCTV/Siyatha News via Reuters)

The Islamic State claimed responsibility on Tuesday for the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka that killed at least 321 people and wounded more than 500 others, coordinated attacks on churches and hotels that officials said were believed to be retaliation for the killings at mosques in New Zealand in March.

The claim, issued through the group’s Amaq news agency, came shortly after Sri Lanka said two domestic Islamist groups, with suspected links to foreign militants, were believed to have been behind the attacks at three churches and four hotels.

Three sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters that Sri Lankan intelligence officials had been warned hours earlier by India that attacks by Islamists were imminent. It was not clear what action, if any, was taken.

Sri Lanka's prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, said during a news conference that investigators were making progress in identifying the perpetrators.

“We will be following up on IS claims, we believe there may be some links,” he said.

The government has said at least seven suicide bombers were involved.

In a statement, the Islamic State identified the seven people who carried out the attacks. It gave no further evidence to support its claim of responsibility.

Earlier, junior minister for defense Ruwan Wijewardene told Parliament two Sri Lankan Islamist groups — the National Thowfeek Jamaath and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim — were responsible for the blasts, which detonated during Easter services and as high-end hotels served breakfast.

The first six bombs — at three churches and three luxury hotels — came within 20 minutes of each other. Two more explosions — at a downmarket hotel and a house in a suburb of the capital, Colombo — came in the early afternoon.

Wickremesinghe said the militants had tried to attack another hotel but had failed.

Sri Lankan government and military sources said a Syrian had been detained among 40 people being questioned over the bombs.

Most of the dead and wounded were Sri Lankans, although government officials said 38 foreigners were killed, including British, U.S., Australian, Turkish, Indian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch and Portuguese nationals.

UNICEF said 45 children were among the dead.

Footage on CNN showed what it said was one of the bombers wearing a heavy backpack. The man patted a child on the head before entering the Gothic-style St. Sebastian’s Church in Katuwapitiya, north of Colombo. Dozens were killed there. (Reuters)

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Footwear and personal belongs of victims kept close to the scene of a suicide bombing at St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, Sri Lanka, April 22, 2019. (Photo: Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP)
Sri Lankan security forces approach the site after a vehicle parked near St. Anthony's Shrine exploded in Colombo, Sri Lanka, April 22, 2019. (Photo: Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP)
A policeman walks close to blood-stained stairs at the scene of a suicide bombing at St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, Sri Lanka, April 22, 2019. (Photo: Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP)
A suspected suicide bomber enters St Sebastian's Church in Negombo, Sri Lanka, on April 21, 2019, in this still image taken from closed-circuit TV footage of the attacks. (Photo: CCTV/Siyatha News via Reuters)
A Sri Lankan Roman Catholic woman prays during a nationwide three-minute period of silence to pay homage to the victims of Easter Sunday’s blasts outside St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on April 23, 2019. (Photo: Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP)
A Special Task Force officer stands guard atop a building as funerals for Easter Sunday bomb blast victims take place at the Methodist burial ground in Negombo, Sri Lanka, April 23, 2019. (Photo: Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP)
Melton Roy prays amid the graves of Easter Sunday bomb blast victims at Methodist burial ground in Negombo, Sri Lanka, on April 23, 2019. (Photo: Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP)
A Sri Lankan woman living near St. Anthony's Shrine runs for safety with her infant after police find explosive devices in a parked vehicle in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on April 22, 2019. The Easter Sunday bombings that ripped through churches and luxury hotels killed more than 300 people. (Photo: Eranga Jayawardena/AP)
Security personnel stand guard outside St. Anthony's Shrine in Colombo on April 22, 2019, a day after the church was hit in a series of bomb blasts targeting churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka. (Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)
Blood stains are seen on the wall and on a statue of Jesus Christ at St. Sebastian's Church after a blast in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka, on April 21, 2019. More than 300 people were killed and hundreds more were injured. (Photo: AP)
Map locating reported bombings on Sunday. (Graphic: Reuters)
A Sri Lankan police officer inspects a blast site at the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on April 21, 2019. (Photo: Eranga Jayawardena/AP)
Sri Lankan soldiers inspect the damage on Monday inside St. Sebastian's Church in Negombo, Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has blamed local Islamist group National Thowfeek Jamaath for what is one of Asia’s deadliest terrorist attacks in years, admitting there had been several warnings from foreign intelligence agencies about the impending violence. (Photo: Tharaka Basnayaka/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
A Sri Lankan man walks across a deserted street during a curfew in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on April 21, 2019. More than 300 people were killed and hundreds more injured in eight blasts that rocked churches and hotels in and just outside Sri Lanka’s capital on Easter Sunday. (Photo: Eranga Jayawardena/AP)
Sri Lankan Army soldiers secure the area around St. Anthony's Shrine after a blast in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Witnesses are reporting two explosions have hit two churches in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, causing casualties among worshippers. (Photo: Eranga Jayawardena/AP)
Shoes and belongings of victims are collected as evidence at St Sebastian's Church in Negombo on April 22, 2019, a day after the church was hit in series of bomb blasts targeting churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka. (Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)
Sri Lankans carry a dead body following a blast at the St. Anthony's Church in Colombo, Sri Lanka on April 21, 2019. (Photo: Eranga Jayawardena/AP)
A view of the damage on April 22, 2019, at St. Sebastian’s Church after bomb blasts ripped through churches and luxury hotels on Easter in Negombo, Sri Lanka. (Photo: Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)
A worker clears debris from the roof of St. Sebastian's Church in Negombo on April 22, 2019, a day after the church was hit in series of bomb blasts targeting churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka. (Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)
The neighborhood mourns near St. Anthony's Church in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on April 21, 2019. (Photo: Tharaka Basnayaka/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
An investigation marker is seen near belongings at St. Sebastian’s Church on April 22, 2019, a day after bomb blasts ripped through churches and luxury hotels on Easter in Negombo, Sri Lanka. (Photo: Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)
Police officers work at the scene at St. Sebastian Catholic Church, after bomb blasts ripped through churches and luxury hotels on Easter, in Negombo, Sri Lanka April 22, 2019. (Photo: Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)
Relatives of victims react at a police mortuary after bomb blasts ripped through churches and luxury hotels on Easter in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on April 22, 2019. (Photo: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters)
A statue of Virgin Mary broken in two parts is seen in front of the St. Anthony's Shrine, Kochchikade church after an explosion in Colombo, Sri Lanka April 21, 2019. (Photo: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters)
A relative of a victim of the explosion at St. Anthony's Shrine, Kochchikade church reacts at the police mortuary in Colombo, Sri Lanka April 21, 2019. (Photo: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters)

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