Sri Lanka’s defence minister has claimed a series of deadly bombings on churches and hotels was carried out “in retaliation” for shootings at mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.

Ruwan Wijewardene said two small domestic Islamist groups were believed to have carried out the Easter Sunday attacks, which killed more than 300 people.

“The preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch,” he told parliament, without citing any evidence.

The junior minister added the recently formed militants National Thowheed Jamaat was responsible for the attacks along with another local group, Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim.

Experts have said the scale of the bombings – detonated at six locations across Sri Lanka – would have required months of careful planning, suggesting the attackers had international help.

Al-Qaeda last month called on Muslims to take revenge for the Christchurch shootings, but it said they should avoid targeting places of worship, according to Site Intelligence Group, which monitors online extremist content.

Rita Katz, Site’s chief executive, said aspects of the Sri Lanka bombings “increasingly suggest Isis involvement”.

Mr Wijewardene’s statement came as the death toll from Sunday’s attacks rose to 311, with eight Britons and dozens of other foreign tourists among the dead.

Sri Lankan authorities are facing growing questions over its failure to prevent the bombings, with intelligence agencies believed to have been aware of a threat from local Islamists.

Sri Lanka observed three minutes of silence at 8.30am on Tuesday, 48 hours after the coordinated attack that hit three major Catholic churches and three international hotels.

Source: Published by independent

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