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)