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Sri Lanka revises death toll to 253 from 359: health ministry

Updated: 2019-04-25 16:30
Sri Lankan military officials stand guard in front of the St. Anthony's Shrine, Kochchikade church after an explosion in Colombo, Sri Lanka April 21, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

*Sri Lanka revised the death toll from multiple terror attacks to between 250 to 253 and not 359 as earlier reported

*The death toll from attacks on churches and luxury hotels across Sri Lanka rose to 359

*Nine suicide bombers were involved in the attacks, eight of whom have been identified

*President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang sent condolence messages to Sri Lanka over the deadly attacks

*Four more Chinese citizens were feared dead in the multiple attacks

*Among the dead in the blasts, there are 38 foreigners, including 1 Chinese national

*Altogether 8 explosions have ripped through the country so far

*Security has been beefed up and 58 suspects have been arrested

*A curfew imposed from 8 pm Monday to 4 am local time on Tuesday

*Social media blocked to curtail the spread of false information and ease tensions

COLOMBO - Sri Lanka on Thursday revised the death toll from multiple terror attacks on Sunday to around 253 from 359, Sri Lanka's Health Ministry said on Thursday.

The statement said the death toll from Sunday's bombing attacks had been revised to between 250 to 253 and not 359 as earlier reported.

Due to the severity of the explosion and many body parts, there was a miscalculation, the health ministry said.

A string of suicide bombings exploded in hotels and churches across Sri Lanka on Sunday. The Sri Lankan police have so far taken more than 70 suspects in custody.

The extremist Islamic State group made its claim after Sri Lankan officials said the suicide bombings in Sri Lanka were carried out in retaliation for attacks on two mosques in New Zealand that killed 50 people in March.

Islamic State said through its AMAQ news agency the assaults in Sri Lanka were carried out by seven attackers but gave no evidence to support its claim of responsibility. If true, it would be one of the worst attacks carried out by the group outside Iraq and Syria.

Junior minister for defence Ruwan Wijewardene told parliament on Tuesday two Sri Lankan Islamist groups - the National Thawheed Jama'ut and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim - were responsible for the blasts, which went off during Easter services and as hotels served breakfast.

Police continued searching homes across the Indian Ocean island nation overnight, leading to the detention of 18 more people. That brings the number of people taken in for questioning to close to 60.

Security officers guard the road to the president’s house in Colombo, after bomb blasts ripped through churches and luxury hotels on Easter, in Sri Lanka April 22, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

The attacks have already foreshadowed a shake-up of Sri Lankan security forces, with President Maithripala Sirisena saying on Tuesday night he planned to change some of his defence chiefs after criticism that intelligence warnings of an Easter attack were ignored.

Three sources said that Sri Lankan intelligence officials had been warned by India hours before the blasts that attacks by Islamists were imminent. It was not clear what action, if any, was taken.

Most of those killed and wounded were Sri Lankans, although government officials said 38 foreigners were also killed. That included British, US, Australian, Turkish, Indian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch and Portuguese nationals.

The UN Children's Fund said 45 children were among the dead.

Junior defence minister Wijewardene said investigators believed revenge for the March 15 mosque attacks in the New Zealand city of Christchurch was the motive but did not elaborate. The attacks during Friday prayers in Christchurch were carried out by a lone gunman.

The Sri Lankan government has imposed emergency law and an overnight curfew. It said it has also blocked online messaging services to stop the spread of inflammatory rumours that it feared could incite communal clashes.

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