Ten days ahead of the deadly blasts that killed over 185 people and inured more than 400 others in Sri Lanka, the Island nation’s police chief had issued a nationwide alert that suicide bombers were planning to hit "prominent churches". According to AFP news agency, Police chief Pujuth Jayasundara sent an intelligence warning to top officers on April 11 about the looming threat.
"A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ (National Thowheeth Jama'ath) is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo," said the alert.
The NTJ is a radical Muslim group in Sri Lanka that came to notice last year when it was linked to the vandalization of Buddhist statues. So far, no group has claimed the responsibility for one of the deadliest attacks in the history of Sri Lanka but given the alert, it is suspected that National Thowheeth Jama'ath could be behind the blasts.
As many as 185, including 35 foreign nationals, were killed while over 400 others sustained serious injuries as six near-simultaneous blasts rocked three churches and three five star hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday morning.
The blasts targeted St Anthony’s Church in Colombo, St Sebastian’s Church in the western coastal town of Negombo and another church in the eastern town of Batticaloa around 8.45 a.m. (local time) when worshipers were attending Easter services, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said.
Three explosions were reported from the five-star hotels - the Shangri-La, the Cinnamon Grand and the Kingsbury. Foreigners and locals who were injured in hotel blasts were admitted to the Colombo General Hospital.
According to sources, 129 deaths have been confirmed in the blasts, but local media reports claimed that the death toll has already reached 185 and was likely to increase further. "Many casualties including foreigners," said Harsha de Silva, the Minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution.