Sri Lanka investigates Easter bombings

By Euan McKirdy, Caitlin Hu and Tara John CNN
7:45 a.m. ET, April 25, 2019
4:48 a.m. ET, April 24, 2019

Mosque official: We warned government about radical preachers, including alleged ringleader

From CNN's James Griffiths in Colombo

Reyyaz Salley, chairman of the Shaikh Usman Waliyullah mosque. He told CNN he had warned the government about extremists like Zahran Hashim, the alleged ringleader of the Easter Sunday bombers.

Reyyaz Salley, chairman of the Shaikh Usman Waliyullah mosque, told CNN that he had repeatedly attempted to warn the government about radical preachers in Sri Lanka, including Zahran Hashim, the alleged mastermind of the attacks. 

"They started to attack Sufi mosques and shrines (in 2010)," he said. 

In February 2019, Salley sent police and intelligence officials videos that Hashim made, which Salley considered promoting jihad. He urged them to act upon it.

"People have been brainwashed. He was talking about jihad. These are all very dangerous messages for the country," he says.

"If the authorities had taken our advice this could have been prevented.”

4:21 a.m. ET, April 24, 2019

A second wave of attacks was planned across Sri Lanka

A high-level intelligence official in Sri Lanka tells CNN that National Tawheed Jamath (NTJ) was planning a second wave of attacks across Sri Lanka.

NTJ has been named as the perpetrators by the Sri Lankan government, but it has not claimed the attacks.

In a statement published by the ISIS-affiliated news agency Amaq, the terror group said Sunday's attackers were "fighters of the Islamic State," but its involvement in the attacks has not been proven.

The information was discovered in intelligence operations since Sunday’s explosions, according to the official.

4:00 a.m. ET, April 24, 2019

Minister: Some bombing suspects were previously arrested for unrelated "skirmishes"

Sri Lanka's state minister of defence Ruwan Wijewardene takes part in a press conference in Colombo on April 24, 2019.

Some of the attackers in Sunday's deadly bombings had previously been arrested, a government official said Wednesday.

State Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardene told journalists at a press conference,"Some of them, in earlier incidents, had been taken into custody (following) small skirmishes, but nothing of this magnitude," he said.

3:43 a.m. ET, April 24, 2019

Suspect's neighbor in Colombo: "They were very reserved"

The Colombo neighborhood which was home to at least one of the bombing suspects.

The neighbor of one bombing suspect in capital city Colombo said that the people who lived in the house under investigation were "very reserved" and didn't interact with the community.

“They were very reserved. They don’t come out to play, they don’t come out, you know, to have a chat," Pamuditha Anjana told CNN.

"In this community we get together, everyone. Like every night, we eat on the road, we talk about stuff like what we have, what are you doing, what’s up, that is all.

"So these guys they never came out. They were very keeping things to themselves.”

2:45 a.m. ET, April 24, 2019

Police: Nine suicide bombers, including one woman

Nine suicide bombers took part in the Easter Sunday bombings, Sri Lanka's Criminal Investigation Department (CID) confirmed today. Out of the nine, eight have been identified by CID, Police Spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said.

The ninth bomber was confirmed as the wife of one of the suicide bombers.

2:13 a.m. ET, April 24, 2019

Around 60 arrests made: Police spokesman

Around 60 people have been arrested for possible links to the multiple attacks carried out on Easter Sunday. Of them, 32 are in custody with the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). All of those arrested are of Sri Lankan nationality, officials said at a press conference today.

2:08 a.m. ET, April 24, 2019

St. Sebastian Church opens new cemetery for bomb victims

From CNN's Rebecca Wright in Negombo

Parishioners and clergy attend a funeral at St. Sebastian's Church, one of almost three dozen carried out so far.

Over 100 people were killed in a blast on Easter Sunday at St. Sebastian's Church in Negombo, a city to the north of the capital Colombo.

So far, 31 of those have been buried in a new cemetery prepared for the victims so far, and a further 25 more are expected to be interred today.

Families were urged not to linger at the site, as authorities feared for their safety.

The church's priest is urging people to leave quickly after their loved ones are buried due to security fears around large groups gathering.

2:33 a.m. ET, April 24, 2019

Defense Minister: One of the suicide bombers studied in the UK

Speaking at a press conference today, Sri Lanka's State Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardene revealed that the majority of Sunday's suicide bombers were from well-heeled families. They were also well-educated, including at least university graduate who had studied abroad.

"Most of them are well-educated, and come from maybe middle- or upper-middle-class. So they are financially quite independent and their families are quite stable financially," .

He added, "We believe that one of the suicide bombers studied in the UK and maybe later on did his post-graduate in Australia, before coming back to settle in Sri Lanka."

1:41 a.m. ET, April 24, 2019

"We are not against any kind of religion," says lawmaker calling to debate a burqa ban

From CNN's Angus Watson in Hong Kong

Ashu Marasinghe, a Sri Lankan member of parliament, told CNN that he called yesterday for a parliamentary debate on banning “the burqa, niqab and any other religious face covering."

He said he believes face coverings are a threat to national security because they make it difficult to identify people, adding that facial covering was not traditional in Sri Lankan Muslim communities. No date has been set for his proposed debate.

People have their own reasons for wearing face coverings but they are all threats to national security. We need to start the discussion in parliament and we can move toward a ban of face coverings.
Face coverings would be banned in public places. This is the point we should discuss in parliament. Some restaurants and shops are already placing signs up asking their customers to remove their burqa or niqab. This is not good for social harmony, for the Muslim community or any other community. There should be one rule which covers all places.
I fully respect peoples religious freedom and freedom of expression, but this is a different angle. We are facing international terrorism for the first time in Sri Lanka – and face coverings are a security issue.