Preliminary investigations have shown the coordinated bombings that killed more than 320 people in churches and hotels across Sri Lanka Sunday were carried out “in retaliation” for last month’s shootings at two New Zealand mosques, the country’s state minister of defense said.
“The preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch,” Ruwan Wijewardene said Tuesday, according to CBS News.
However, the outlet reports that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe later said it was only “possible” that there was a link between Sunday’s attack and the March 15 shootings in which 50 people were killed, allegedly by an Australian white supremacist.
RELATED VIDEO: More Than 200 People Killed in Series of Deadly Church and Hotel Bombings in Sri Lanka
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was reluctant to support the claim that the attacks were linked, only saying in a statement that the investigation was still in its early stages, and that New Zealand had yet to see any “intelligence” that could generate such a conclusion, according to the Associated Press.
The AP reports that Wijewardene provided no evidence to back his retaliation claims, which came as the Islamic State or Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the bombings.
CNN reports that the group said via its Amaq news agency that the attacks were carried out by “fighters of the Islamic State,” though it provided no evidence.
Sri Lankan officials, however, have said that the attacks were carried out by two domestic Islamic extremist groups: National Thowfeek Jamaath (NTJ) and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim (JMI), according to the New York Times.
More than 320 people were killed and 500 injured after six blasts went off simultaneously on Sunday, targeting Easter mass attendees at St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, the St. Sebastian Catholic Church in nearby Negombo, and the Protestant Zion church in the town of Batticaloa, as well as three luxury hotels.
Two later explosions were reported by authorities at a housing complex in the suburb of Dematagoda, which killed three police officers, and at a hotel in the suburb of Dehiwala, which killed two people, according to the New York Times.
The Associated Press, citing Sri Lanka’s minister of tourism John Amaratunga, reported that 39 foreign tourists were killed in the bombings.
Among those were two Americans: Dieter Kowalski, a 40-year-old Denver man visiting the country on business, and Kieran Shafritz de Zoysa, an 11-year-old fifth-grader on leave from school in Washington, D.C., to live in his mother’s native Sri Lanka.
CBS News reports that at least 40 suspects, all Sri Lankan nationals, have been taken into custody for questioning.