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Islamic State claims responsibility for Sri Lanka bombings as death toll passes 320
From The Telegraph
Islamic State on Tuesday claiming responsibility on its official Amaq news agency, saying that according to “security sources” fighters with Isil carried out the suicide bombings which killed 321.The group did not immediately offer any evidence for its claims.
Isil's brief statement said they targeted “nationals of the Crusader alliance and Christians”, but made no specific reference to the New Zealand mosque attacks.
Isis's official news agency, Amaq, posted this ... image of seven masked attackers and the unmasked ringleader, Zahran Hashim (centre), in front of its black flag. In a statement the men were named as Abu Ubaida - thought to refer to Hashim - Abu Khalil, Abu Hamza, Abu al-Baraa, Abu Muhammad, Abu Abdulla and Abu al-Mukhtar.
It came as Sri Lanka's defence minister declared the attacks were retaliation for a recent attack on mosques in New Zealand, adding that two domestic Islamist groups were believed to be responsible.
Ruwan Wijewardene’s comments were made as the South Asian island held its first mass funeral for about 30 of the 320 victims of Sunday’s serial suicide bombings in three high profile churches and three luxury hotels.
Sri Lankan intelligence has named the mastermind behind the Easter Sunday attacks as Moulvi Zahran Hashim, an extremist local cleric who incited his followers to violence with fiery sermons on his social media channels.
At the same time, AFP agency reported that two Muslim brothers carried out two of the hotel suicide blasts. The brothers, sons of a wealthy Colombo spice trader, blew themselves up as guests queued for breakfast at the Shangri-La and Cinnamon Grand hotels in the capital Colombo.
.Police sources also reportedly revealed that they had foiled a fourth planned hotel attack.
Mr Wijewardene told the Sri Lankan parliament the massacre was carried out by the obscure local National Thawheed Jamaath group along with another group called the JMI, an apparent reference to a little-known radical Islamist group in India called the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen.
Some experts have pointed out that the sophisticated nature of the attacks suggest that they would have required preparation that began before the Christchurch atrocity.
The Sri Lankan authorities are still investigating how local militants gained the training and equipment to carry out an assault that is now considered to be one of the worst global terrorist atrocities since the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.
One theory is that Sri Lankan extremists could have been assisted by returning fighters from Iraq and Syria. It also emerged on Tuesday that Sri Lankan police are holding a Syrian national in custody for questioning over the Easter Sunday attacks.