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Explosions during Sri Lanka raid
By Meg Wagner and Jessie Yeung, CNN
The Sri Lankan government is ramping up its investigation into the Easter Sunday bombings. The coordinated attacks left 253 people dead, and tensions are running high across the country as authorities conduct raids and warn of possible additional attacks.
Here's where the investigation stands:
- More than 70 suspects have been taken into custody on a range of charges.
- Two suicide bombers — Ilham and Imsath Ahmed Ibrahim — are sons of a spice tycoon, said a senior government official. Ilham had previously been arrested and released, and their father, Mohamed Yusuf Ibrahim, has been detained.
- Officers have raided five safe houses across the country, and have found designs for bombs, batteries and packaging for ball bearings, and ISIS flags and uniforms.
- Search operations are underway across the capital city of Colombo, and numerous controlled demolitions have been carried out of suspicious packages and vehicles.
- The huge international investigation now involves six foreign police agencies and Interpol assisting local police, including Scotland Yard from the UK and the FBI from the US.
Today's raids came after Sri Lanka's president announced a "major search operation" in Sri Lanka.
"Every household in the country will be checked," President Maithripala Sirisena said at a news conference on Friday. "The lists of permanent residents of every house will be established to ensure no unknown persons could live anywhere."
The heightened tensions have put Sri Lankans on edge.
Catholic Sunday masses have been suspended "until further notice" in Sri Lanka, the Archbishop of Colombo Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith announced on Friday. He said the move will ensure the safety of the worshipers, and that the church "will try to introduce some services" once better security was in place.
The government urged Muslims to stay at home for Friday prayers, and many mosques were closed. However, some mosques defied the call, opening for the midday prayers.
Both Christianity and Islam are minority religions in Sri Lanka, each accounting for under 10% of the total population. The vast majority of Sri Lankans identify as Buddhist.
Sri Lankan security forces exchanged gunfire while conducting raids, police told CNN. Three explosions also took place during the raid, police said.
The raids and blasts come less than a week after a series of bombings across Sri Lanka killed more than 250 people on Easter Sunday.
Here's what we know about the Sunday attacks:
- The blasts: Six bombings — three in luxury hotels and three at churches — killed 253 people.
- The arrests: Sri Lankan police tell CNN more than 70 suspects have been arrested across the country since the Easter Sunday bombings on Sunday.
- But there could be more suspects: Police in Sri Lanka have warned that more suspects were on the run, as it emerged that a prominent spice tycoon was being held on suspicion of helping two of his sons who participated in the attacks.
Sri Lankan security forces exchanged gunfire and found explosives, ISIS flags and uniforms while conducting raids in several cities in the eastern part of the country today, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara told CNN.
The gunfire happened during a security operation in the Sainda-Marudu area of the city of Kalmunai, police said. Three explosions also took place during the raid, police said.
A cache of explosives used to produce bombs was seized from a house during a raid in Sammanthurai, according to police.
ISIS uniforms, ISIS flags, 150 Gelignite sticks, 100,000 ball bearings and a drone camera were also found during the raid in Sammanthurai, police said.