COLOMBO: An initial probe into deadly suicide bomb attacks in Sri Lanka that killed more than 300 people shows it was "retaliation for Christchurch", the country's deputy defence minister said Tuesday (Apr 23).
"The preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka (on Sunday) was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch," state minister of defence Ruwan Wijewardene told parliament.
Fifty people were killed in shooting attacks on two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch on Mar 15.
Wijewardene said investigations showed that a local group called National Thowheeth Jama'ath (NTJ) was behind the attack and was linked to a little-known radical group in India.
"This National Thowheeth Jama'ath group which carried out the attacks had close links with JMI it has now been revealed," Wijewardene told parliament, in an apparent reference to a group known as Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen India.
Little is known about JMI, other than reports it was established last year and is affiliated to a similarly named group in Bangladesh.
The minister said Sri Lanka was receiving unspecified international assistance with the investigation.
The death toll from Sunday's coordinated bomb attacks has risen to 321.
Tuesday was declared a national day of mourning, amid mounting pressure on the government over why effective action had not been taken in response to a warning this month about a possible attack on churches.
New Zealand said on Tuesday it had "not yet seen" any intelligence reports linking the bombings in Sri Lanka to the mosque massacre in Christchurch.
A spokesperson for Prime Minsiter Jacinda 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.
"We understand the Sri Lankan investigation into the attack is in its early stages," the spokesperson said. "New Zealand has not yet seen any intelligence upon which such an assessment might be based.
"New Zealanders oppose terrorism and extreme violence in all its forms. In the wake of the Christchurch mosque attacks, it was the condemnation of the perpetrators of violence and a message of peace that unified us all."
On Apr 25, the Sri Lankan government revised the death toll to 253.