Police in Sri Lanka carry out controlled explosion on scooter found rigged with a bomb

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer
Police in Sri Lanka have carried out a controlled explosion at a cinema (Getty)

Sri Lankan police have carried out a controlled blast on a scooter parked outside a cinema that was packed with explosives.

As the death toll from the Easter suicide bombings rose to 359, police carried out the explosion to open the seat of the suspicious motorbike near a Savoy Cinema this morning.

Islamic State has claimed responsibility and released images that purported to show the seven bombers who blew themselves up at three churches and three hotels on Sunday.

The explosion was reportedly used to open the seat of a suspicious motorbike (Getty)

It was the worst violence the South Asian island nation had seen since its civil war ended a decade ago.

The government has said the attacks were carried out by Islamic fundamentalists in apparent retaliation for the New Zealand mosque massacre last month, but has said the seven bombers were all Sri Lankan.

New Zealand's prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said she had not received any official advice from Sri Lanka or seen any intelligence to corroborate the claims.

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Sri Lankan prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said investigators were still working to determine the extent of the bombers' foreign links.

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said on Wednesday that 18 suspects were arrested overnight, raising the total detained to 58.

The prime minister had warned on Tuesday that several suspects armed with explosives were still at large.

The death toll from the Easter suicide bombings in Sri Lanka has risen to 359 (Getty)

Isis has lost all the territory it once held in Iraq and Syria and has made a series of unsupported claims of responsibility around the world.

Sri Lankan authorities have blamed a local extremist group, National Towheed Jamaar (NTJ), whose leader Mohammed Zahran or Zahran Hashmi became known to Muslim leaders three years ago for his incendiary speeches online.

In an address to parliament, Ruwan Wijewardene, the state minister of defence, said "weakness" within Sri Lanka's security apparatus led to the failure to prevent the nine bombings.

The attacks were the worst violence the South Asian island nation had seen since its civil war ended a decade ago (PA)

"By now it has been established that the intelligence units were aware of this attack and a group of responsible people were informed about the impending attack," Mr Wijewardene said.

"However, this information has been circulated among only a few officials.”

In a live address to the nation Sri Lanka's president, Maithripala Sirisena, said he also was kept in the dark on the intelligence about the planned attacks.

He vowed to "take stern action" against the officials who failed to share the information and also pledged "a complete restructuring" of the security forces.

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the deadly attacks (PA)

A block on most social media since the attacks has left a vacuum of information, fuelling confusion and giving little reassurance the danger had passed.

Mr Wickremesinghe said he feared the massacre could unleash instability and he vowed to "vest all necessary powers with the defence forces" to act against those responsible.