Colombo: Sri Lanka's worst terror attack targeting churches and luxury hotels on Easter Sunday was carried out by local Islamist extremists in retaliation for the mosque shootings in New Zealand, a senior minister informed Parliament on Tuesday, citing results of the initial probe.
Addressing an emergency session of Parliament to discuss Sunday's attacks, Sri Lanka's state minister of defence, Ruwan Wijewardene, said early findings of the ongoing probe found that the suicide bombings were in revenge for the March 15 deadly attacks at two mosques in Christchurch which left 50 people dead.
According to an intelligence memo sent to some government officials before the attack, a member of the Islamic extremist group blamed for the Sri Lanka attacks had posted "extremist content" on social media after the Christchurch shootings that were carried out by a Right-wing extremist, Wijewardene said.
The government has blamed National Tawheed Jamaath (NTJ) after seven suicide bombers struck three churches and three hotels.
Wijewardene has proposed banning the NTJ.
The suicide bombers were all Sri Lankan citizens but the group is believed to have links with foreign terrorist networks. However, no group has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Five Indians were among 50 people killed in the ghastly terror attacks on two mosques in Christchurch which was carried out by 28-year-old Australia-born Brenton Tarrant reportedly targeted immigrants during Friday prayers.
Countries from across the globe, including the US, the UK, Russia and New Zealand have expressed shock and condemnation over the deadly blasts at churches and hotels in Sri Lanka.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described the Sunday blasts as "devastating".
"New Zealand condemns all acts of terrorism, and our resolve has only been strengthened by the attack on our soil on the 15th of March. To see an attack in Sri Lanka while people were in churches and at hotels is devastating," she said on Sunday.
Noting that the attacks were carried out by the local extremists, Wijewardene said the death toll in the gruesome bombings had risen to 321, including 38 foreigners.
Wickremesinghe said in his address in Parliament that the attacks were of a different nature than the political objectives of the terrorist campaign which Sri Lanka faced until 2009 when the three-decade long conflict ended with the defeat of the LTTE.
"Muslim community is against these attacks. There are only a few who are involved in these attacks," Wickremesinghe said, adding that the international community has expressed solidarity with Sri Lanka over the blasts.
The group which carried out the attacks was trained for the planned attacks. The government will deal with the situation and end the threats from extremists, he said.
Leader of the Opposition Mahinda Rajapaksa blamed the government for failing to ensure national security. "When I handed over the government it was free of terrorism. No such attack would have happened under my government," he said.
Rajapaksa said the government must step down if public security cannot be guaranteed.