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Sri Lanka hunts 140 suspected IS militants for Easter bombings

By
Clyde Hughes and Danielle Haynes
Soldiers patrol an area in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Wednesday -- three days after a series of suicide bombings killed more than 250 people. Photo by Perera Sameera/UPI
Soldiers patrol an area in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Wednesday -- three days after a series of suicide bombings killed more than 250 people. Photo by Perera Sameera/UPI | License Photo

April 26 (UPI) -- President Maithripala Sirisena on Friday promised an exhaustive search for nearly 150 people suspected in the Easter Day suicide attacks that killed hundreds.

Sirisena made the comments during a news conference, during which he said police are hunting for 140 potential suspects with ties to the Islamic State. The group has claimed responsibility for nine coordinated suicide bombings Sunday.

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A "major search operation has been undertaken," Sirisena said. "Every household in the country will be checked. The list of permanent residents of every house will be established to ensure no unknown persons could live anywhere."

Authorities said they've arrested 70 suspects, including spice tycoon Mohamed Yusuf Ibrahim, whose sons were allegedly two of the suicide bombers. Raids at five safe houses throughout the country allegedly uncovered bomb-making designs, ball bearing packaging, batteries, and Islamic State flags and uniforms.

RELATED Officials: Sri Lankan bombing suspects 'well educated,' had international ties

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he feared some of the suspects may be plotting more suicide attacks. Authorities said they've arrested the second-in-command of the militant group National Towheed Jamaat. Its No. 1 leader, Mohamed Zahran, is believed to have died in one of the bombings Sunday that targeted three churches and three hotels.

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Sri Lankan officials asked citizens of all faiths to pray privately this weekend, due to concerns of further attacks. Sri Lankan Minister of Postal Service and Muslim Religious Affairs Mohamed Hashim Abdul also urged Muslims against gathering in public Friday for the same reason.

Some mosques opened for midday prayers Friday, despite the call, and Catholic officials said services in the capital of Colombo will be suspended until Monday.

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