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26 April, 2019 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 26 April, 2019 01:59:56 AM
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Sri Lanka blast death toll revised down to 253

Suicide bomber ‘previously nabbed, then released’
CNN, Colombo
Sri Lanka blast death toll revised down to 253
Soldiers search a three-wheeler as passengers look on at a checkpoint on a street in Colombo yesterday following a series of bomb blasts targeting churches and luxury hotels on the Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka, killing nearly 360 people. Sri Lanka's Catholic churches have suspended all public services over security fears as thousands of troops joined the hunt for suspects in deadly bombings. AFP Photo

Authorities in Sri Lanka yesterday lowered the death toll in a spate of Easter bombings by more than 100 to 253, admitting some of the badly mutilated bodies had been erroneously double-counted. The toll revision will boost the pressure on a government already under fire over its apparent failure to act on intelligence about the attacks, and follows the resignation of a top defence official. The top bureaucrat a the island nation's defence ministry, Hemasiri Fernando, was the first official to step down in the wake of the attacks -- the worst since a civil war ended more than a decade ago. "Many of the victims were badly mutilated... There was double counting," the health ministry said in explaining the new death toll of 253, down from 359 announced on Wednesday.

The ministry said that once all autopsies were completed, and cross-referenced with DNA samples, the new lower toll was reached. The ministry did not offer a new breakdown of the tally in terms of locals and foreigners. Earlier, Sri Lanka's foreign ministry had said 40 of the victims were foreign nationals. Earlier, one of the Sri Lanka suicide  bombers was previously arrested by police and then released, a senior government official said yesterday.

Ilham Ahmed Ibrahim -- one of two sons of a spice tycoon who blew themselves up in Sunday's attacks -- detonated a device at the Cinnamon Grand hotel in Colombo, the official told CNN.

"It was the suicide bomber of the Cinnamon Grand bomb attack who was released earlier," the official said.

Ilham Ahmed Ibrahim and his brother Imsath Ahmed Ibrahim were previously identified as two of the suicide bombers in Sunday's attacks, which left at least 359 people dead across the country.

CNN has not been able to reach Mohamed Yusuf Ibrahim or other members of his family for comment.

In a latest development, Sri Lanka's top defence ministry official resigned yesterday, taking responsibility for security failures that led to suicide bombings. Hemasiri Fernando, the most senior bureaucrat at the ministry, sent a letter of resignation to President Maithripala Sirisena, an official said.

Earlier in the day, Sri Lanka's government said it was suspending plans to grant citizens of 39 countries visa-free entry during the tourism low season after the deadly Easter bombings.

"Although arrangements were in place to issue visas on arrival for citizens of 39 countries, we have now decided to hold it for the time being in consideration of the current security situation," Tourism Minister John Amaratunga said in a statement.

"Investigations have revealed foreign links to the (Easter) attacks and we don't want this programme to be abused."

Sri Lanka had announced last month a plan to allow visa-free entry to tourists from 39 countries, including EU members, Australia and the United States, during the low season, from May 1. The scheme did not include China and India, from where many of Sri Lanka's visitors come. Israel, meanwhile, has urged its citizens travelling in Sri Lanka to leave the country, citing an "elevated concrete threat" following deadly Easter bombings there.

Meanwhile, a huge international criminal investigation is ramping up in Sri Lanka, with six foreign police agencies and Interpol assisting local police, including Scotland Yard from the UK and the FBI from the US.

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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