COLOMBO: Sri Lanka bolstered security Friday with fears of attacks against bridges in the capital as the prime minister vowed to hunt down any remaining Islamic State extremists behind the deadly Easter bombings, reports AFP.
Sri Lanka’s minority Muslims, meanwhile, held Friday prayers under tight security, condemning the jihadist attacks that killed 257 people on April 21.Islamist extremists were believed to be planning further attacks, authorities said, this time against several bridges and flyovers in the city as well as police stations.
The warnings came as Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said some of the conspirators in the April 21 bombings of three hotels and three luxury hotels may still be at large.
“Most of those responsible for the Easter attacks have been arrested. Some have been killed,” Wickremesinghe said Friday during a tour of island’s east, where a Christian church was hit. “We are trying to see if there are any more secret IS cells in the country,” he said. “We will ensure that IS terrorism will be eradicated from our land.”
He hoped normality would return by Monday when public schools reopen after an extended Easter vacation. About 50 children were among those killed.
As Muslims held prayers, mosque leaders said donations they received will be diverted to help rebuild the three churches.
At Colombo’s Dewatagaha Jumma mosque, hundreds of Muslims prayed after being frisked by police for explosives. Vehicles were not allowed to be parked near the Sufi mosque.Banners in front of the mosque condemned the atrocities and expressed solidarity with Christians. One of the banners offered the mosque for Christians to conduct their services.
“The situation has come to normal but not completely,” chairman of the mosque, Reyyaz M. Salley, told AFP. “People are still scared. Non-Muslims and Muslims are in a very tense situation.”
Police confirmed they had instructed stations around Colombo to deploy additional officers and asked the navy to deploy more vessels on rivers following the leak of police intelligence warning bridges were at risk of attack.
Sri Lanka’s military has also set up a special command centre to co-ordinate anti-jihadist operations, while the army said more troops have been deployed for search operations.
Additional troops conducted searches overnight and seized explosives and weapons from several locations, although these were from criminal groups and not jihadists, official sources said.
Authorities had information about a small group of radicals who may be trying to stage more strikes, said health minister and government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne.