COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, April 24, (AP): The death toll from the Easter suicide bombings in Sri Lanka rose to 359, police said Wednesday, as the country’s leaders vowed to overhaul the security apparatus amid a series of intelligence lapses before the attacks.
US Ambassador Alaina Teplitz, meanwhile, told reporters that “clearly there was some failure in the system.” Sri Lanka’s leaders have said some of the country’s security units were aware before Easter of possible attacks, but did not share those warnings widely.
Teplitz said the US had “no prior knowledge” of a threat before the bombings. She said a team of FBI agents and US military officials were helping in the investigation.
The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility and released images that purported to show the seven bombers who blew themselves up at three churches and three hotels Sunday in the worst violence this South Asian island nation has 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 last months’ New Zealand mosque massacre but has said the seven bombers were all 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 Wednesday morning that 18 additional suspects were arrested overnight, raising the total detained to 58. The Islamic State group 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.