Improvised bomb made safe near Colombo airport: Police

Improvised bomb made safe near Colombo airport: Police

Passengers waiting at Colombo airport Sri Lanka
Passengers wait inside the arrival hall at Bandaranaike International Airport in Katunayake on Apr 22, 2019, after authorities imposed a curfew following eight bomb blasts in the country. (Photo: AFP)

COLOMBO: An improvised pipe bomb discovered close to Colombo's main airport was successfully defused by the Sri Lanka airforce, police said.

A police source told AFP that a "homemade" pipe bomb had been found late Sunday (Apr 21) on a road leading towards the main terminal, which remains open with heavy security after deadly attacks on churches and hotels.

Airforce spokesperson Group Captain Gihan Seneviratne said the IED was believed to be locally manufactured.

Sunday's attacks were mostly targeted at high-end hotels in the capital and churches where worshippers were attending Easter services. More than 200 people were killed and about 450 injured in the attacks. 

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but the government said eight people had been arrested.

READ: Sri Lanka blasts: What we know so far

In a video on his Twitter account, Sri Lanka's State Minister for Defence Ruwan Wijewardene said the country's Criminal Investigations Department is working with the police and the military to investigate the attacks.

Documents seen by AFP show that Sri Lanka's police chief Pujuth Jayasundara issued an intelligence alert to top officers 10 days ago, warning that suicide bombers planned to hit "prominent churches".

"A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ (National Thowheeth Jama'ath) is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo," the alert said.

The NTJ is a radical Muslim group in Sri Lanka that was linked last year to the vandalisation of Buddhist statues.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe acknowledged that "information was there" about possible attacks and that an investigation would look into "why adequate precautions were not taken".

Ethnic and religious violence has plagued Sri Lanka for decades, with a 37-year conflict with Tamil rebels followed by an upswing in recent years in clashes between the Buddhist majority and Muslims.

Catholics make up around six per cent of the island nation's population, which is a patchwork of different religious and ethnic groups dominated by Buddhist Sinhalese.

While there have been attacks on Christians, their community had been left relatively unscathed until now.

Source: Agencies/rw

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