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Tue, 23 Apr 2019 12:41 - Updated Tue, 23 Apr 2019 12:41

Sri Lanka attacks: Mass funerals on day of mourning

Sri Lanka has held its first mass funeral as the country marks a day of mourning for the victims of Sunday's bomb blasts.

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The death toll of the attacks on churches and hotels has increased to 310, police said on Tuesday.

The country has observed three minutes of silence and a state of emergency is in effect to prevent further attacks.

Sri Lanka's government has blamed the blasts on local Islamist group National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ).

Police have now detained 40 suspects in connection with the attack, a spokesman said on Tuesday.

The mass funeral of about 30 dead took place at St Sebastian's church in Negombo, north of Colombo, which was one of the places targeted in Sunday's blasts.

Another funeral service is scheduled for 15:00 (09:30GMT) at St Sebastian in Colombo.

Earlier, a moment of silence was observed at 08:30, reflecting the time the first of six bombs detonated.

Flags were lowered to half mast and people bowed their heads in silence in respect to the victims as well as the 500 people injured during the attacks.

The state of emergency gives police and the military sweeping powers to detain and interrogate suspects without court orders - powers that were last used during the nation's civil war.

The government blocked access to Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram after the blasts.

NTJ, the group named by the government as the main suspect, has no history of large-scale attacks but came to prominence last year when it was blamed for damaging Buddhist statues.

However, neither NTJ, nor any other group, has admitted carrying out Sunday's bombings.

Warnings ignored

Since Sunday, scrutiny has fallen on the rifts in Sri Lanka's leadership, after it emerged authorities were warned about an imminent threat.

Security agencies had been watching the NTJ jihadist group, reports said, and had notified police about a possible attack.

But Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the cabinet were not informed, ministers said.

According to cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne, the information was not passed to Mr Wickremesinghe due to a rift between the prime minister and President Maithripala Sirisena.

However, it was not clear on Monday whether Mr Sirisena had been made aware of the warnings. "Our understanding is that it was correctly circulated among security and police," Shiral Lakthilaka, a senior adviser to Mr Sirisena, told the BBC.

He said that the president had appointed a special committee led by a supreme court judge to investigate what had happened.

BBC

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