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Sri Lanka government declares State of Emergency from midnight on Monday in wake of serial blasts that killed 290 people

Colombo: Sri Lanka will enforce a state of emergency from midnight Monday in the wake of the blasts during Easter services that killed 290 people and wounded more than 500 others, enhancing the counter terrorism powers of of the security forces.

The decision was made during a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) chaired by President Maithripala Sirisena.

 Sri Lanka government declares State of Emergency from midnight on Monday in wake of serial blasts that killed 290 people

Security personnel and investigators at St Sebastian's Church in Katuwapitiya, Negambo. A Gamage/101Reporters

The NSC has announced plans to impose a "conditional state of emergency" from midnight, said a statement from the president's media unit.

It said the measures would target terrorism and would not limit freedom of expression. The government has declared Tuesday as a national day of mourning.

The Lankan government believes a local Islamist extremist group called the National Thowheeth Jama'ath (NTJ) was behind the suicide bomb attacks.

Government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne, who is also a cabinet minister, added that the government was investigating whether the group had "international support".

"We don't see that only a small organisation in this country can do all that," he said.

"We are now investigating the international support for them, and their other links, how they produced the suicide bombers here, and how they produced bombs like this."

Documents seen by AFP show Sri Lanka's police chief issued a warning on 11 April, saying that a "foreign intelligence agency" had reported NTJ was planning attacks on churches and the Indian high commission.

Not much is known about the NTJ, a radical Muslim group that his been linked to the vandalising of Buddhist statues. A police source told AFP that all 24 people in custody in connection with the attacks belong to an "extremist" group, but did not specify further.

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Updated Date: Apr 22, 2019 16:14:54 IST