Sri Lanka president to change defense heads after attacks


A mourner places flowers on a grave during a funeral of Easter Sunday suicide bomb blast victim at Methodist cemetery in Negombo, Sri Lanka.

In a statement issued through its propaganda "Amaq" news agency, the ISIS said that "the executors of the attack that targeted citizens of coalition states and Christians in Sri Lanka two days ago were with the group", according to the Site Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist activities. The public gathering begins at 6:30 p.m. and participants are invited to bring candles, flowers or a Sri Lankan flag.

A spokesperson for Ardern said the government had seen reports of the statement by Sri Lanka's Minister of state for defence alleging the link between the Easter Sunday attack and Christchurch. All seven bombers were Sri Lankans, but authorities said they strongly suspected foreign links.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told a news conference investigators were making progress in identifying the perpetrators.

On Tuesday, the so-called Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a devastating series of suicide attacks.

"We do not believe these attacks were carried out by a group of people who were confined to this country", Senaratne told reporters.

The suicide bombers hit three Colombo luxury hotels popular with foreign tourists - the Cinnamon Grand, the Shangri-La and the Kingsbury - and three churches: two in the Colombo region and one in the eastern city of Batticaloa.

In the wake of bombings, the military has been given a wider berth to detain and arrest suspects - powers that were used during the civil war but withdrawn when it ended.

Sri Lankan MP Ashu Marasinghe proposed the bill on his Facebook page that would ban burqas, claiming that they pose a national security risk stemming from their previous use to mask the identities of terrorist.

The intelligence report attached to his letter, which has circulated widely on social media, named the group allegedly plotting the attack, National Towheed Jamaar, identifying its leader as Zahran Hashmi, and said it was targeting "some important churches" in a suicide attack that was planned to take place "shortly".

The FBI is assisting Sri Lankan authorities with their investigation.

The Gomez family gathered Tuesday to say a final farewell to five loved ones - a son, a daughter-in-law and three young grandsons - brutally killed as they attended Easter Sunday Mass at Colombo's St. Joseph's Shrine.

SLTJ has attempted to attract conservative Muslims in Sri Lanka for years by speaking out about Buddhist hard-liners and opposing the country's reforms to the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act.