Rockingham medical executive and husband among victims of Sri Lanka bombings

Bill Harrop and Dr Sally Bradley were staying at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel in Colombo when it was targeted by a suicide bomber during a series of attacks on Easter Sunday.

He said his father lives in the capital Colombo, and fortunately, was late for church on the day of the attacks.

President Maithripala Sirisena is seeking assistance from foreign powers to trace worldwide links to the seven blasts which killed 290 and injured more than 500 people.

However, the focus of suspicion is falling on Islamist militants with links to foreign groups.

Police are investigating whether warnings of the attack were ignored, after worldwide agencies warned of an imminent threat as early as April 4.

No group has claimed the attacks, but Sri Lankan officials have named little-known Islamic extremist organisation National Thowfeek Jamaath.

"The initial investigation has revealed that this was in retaliation for the New Zealand mosque attack", he said.

While many details have not been released, Sunday's attacks involved coordinated bombings, within minutes of each other, of three Christian churches, packed for Easter Sunday services, and three luxury hotels. The explosion occurred when a bomb being defused by police went off. Tourism Minister John Amaratunga said 39 foreigners were killed, although the foreign ministry gave the figure as 31.

The country was no stranger to bombings and violence during a 25-year-civil war, but the end of the insurgency in 2009 had restored tranquility to the tropical island.

Sri Lanka's health minister Rajitha Senaratne on Monday called on the inspector general of police to resign.

The state of emergency will activate key sections of the notorious Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) that allows the military, as well as the police, to make arbitrary arrests on suspicion of terrorism, and to detain suspects for lengthy periods without charge.

An overnight curfew has also been imposed since Sunday.

Australia's political leaders condemned attacks, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison being briefed on the situation.

A Danish billionaire lost three of his children in the attacks, a spokesman for his company said. Authorities in Colombo said Monday that a French national was also among the victims. Since May a year ago, IS has claimed responsibility for attacks on churches in Indonesia and the Philippines.

Authorities said they knew where the group trained and had safe houses, but did not identify any of the seven suicide bombers, whose bodies were recovered, or the other suspects taken into custody.

Footage on CNN showed what it said was one of the bombers wearing a heavy backpack. Anthony's Shrine in Colombo, St. Sebastian's Church in Negombo, and at Zion Church in Batticaloa as churchgoers gathered for Easter Mass. Dozens were killed there.

A source in the United Nations Organization told TASS that no separate UNSC session on the terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka has been planned.

The group came to prominence in December 2018 when its followers were accused of attacking Buddhist statues in Sri Lanka's Kegalle district - a move that outraged the country's majority Buddhist community.

It was not immediately clear what action, if any, was taken in response.

"Our understanding is that [the warning] was correctly circulated among security and police", Shiral Lakthilaka, a senior adviser to President Maithripala Sirisena, said. Weeks later, he was forced to re-instate Wickremesinghe because of pressure from the Supreme Court and their relationship is still fraught as a presidential election nears.

  • Leroy Wright