COLOMBO, April 22 - Seven suicide bombers believed to be members of an Islamist extremist group carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, killing 290 people in the country�s worst terror attack, authorities said on Monday. A state of emergency was declared from midnight on Monday after a crucial meeting of the National Security Council chaired by President Maithripala Sirisena.
No group has claimed responsibility for Sunday�s attacks, but police have so far arrested 24 people � mostly members of an Islamist extremist group � in connection with the blasts.
Police said that 9 out of the 24 arrested for involvement in the blasts were ordered to be remanded by the Colombo magistrate�s court till May 6.
Government�s spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said local Islamist extremist group called the National Tawheed Jamath (NTJ) is suspected of plotting the blasts that struck three churches when the Easter Sunday mass were in progress and three five-star hotels.
�All suicide bombers involved in the blasts are believed to be Sri Lankan nationals,� said Senaratne, who is also the Health Minister.
Speaking at a press conference here, Senaratne said the government was investigating whether the group had �international support�.
�There may be international links to them,� he added.
The Government Analyst�s Department was quoted as saying by the Sunday Times that the blasts at the Shangri-La, Kingsbury and Cinnamon Grand hotels, and also at St Anthony�s Church in Kotahena, St Sebastian�s Church in Katuwapitiya and the Zeon Church in Batticaloa have been identified as suicide bombings.
�A total of seven suicide bombers had carried out these explosions,� it said.
Around 290 people were killed in the blasts that left more than 500 others injured, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said.
He said that 24 arrested suspects have been transferred into the custody of the Criminal Investigations Department for further investigations.
The �conditional state of emergency� would target terrorism and would not limit freedom of expression, said a statement from the president�s media unit. �These will be limited to counter terrorism regulations. This is being done to allow the police and the three forces to ensure public security.� � PTI