Three explosions have reportedly rocked a city on Sri Lanka’s eastern seaboard as the police and the army carry out searches targeting suspects from last weekend’s deadly bombings.
Police have been conducting searches across Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the deadly suicide bombings on churches and hotels which killed more than 250 people. Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) claimed responsibility for the bombings.
There are “some links” between the deadly Easter bombings and Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS), Sri Lanka’s prime minister has said, warning that new attacks are possible.
The country’s authorities are monitoring Islamic State recruits who have returned to the country, PM Ranil Wickremesinghe said on Tuesday.
So far, only Sri Lankan citizens have been arrested in connection with the attacks, the PM said. However, some of the suspected bombers had traveled abroad and returned home before carrying out the massacre.
The bombings of Christian churches and luxury hotels, which killed over 300 people, might have been in retaliation to the Christchurch mosque shooting in New Zealand, the official added. A fourth hotel was also a terrorist target, yet the attack failed, according to the PM.
Shortly before Wickremasinghe held the press conference, IS claimed responsibility for the attacks through its propaganda mouthpiece Amaq. While the group did not provide any evidence to back up the claims, Sri Lankan authorities are taking the statement seriously.
“We will be following up on IS claims, we believe there may be links,” Wickremasinghe stated.
Wickremasinghe revealed that the country’s intelligence units received information about the bombing plot beforehand and that a specific tip-off came from India. The investigation into the blasts is receiving international support as well. The FBI revealed that it is assisting Sri Lankan authorities.
According to data retrieved from Google Trend by Al-Jazeera, it was revealed that search interest was seven times more for keywords “Notre Dame” compared to “Sri Lanka.”
A major fire broke out at the medieval Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on April 15 afternoon. The cathedral, which dates back to the 12th century and is famous for featuring in Victor Hugo's classic novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, attracts millions of tourists every year. No deaths have been reported in the Paris fire incident.
Within 24 hours of both incidents, the Notre Dame fire recorded between five to nine times more search interest than Sri Lanka attacks.
The searches for Sri Lanka outnumbered Notre Dame only in India, Indonesia, and United Arab Emirates (UAE).
One of the main reasons behind more interest in Notre Dame was the "closer to home" appeal for people from the Western hemisphere.
"Conversely, in India, Sri Lanka is 'closer to home' and that why it was reflected more prominently in India's search trends," Al-Jazeera’s SEO analyst Gabriele Kahlout said.
"We see this pattern all the time. When news of the Ethiopian Airlines crash broke out, Google Trends reported that people in America were mainly searching for American victims of the crash."
According to the Trends, France, Mexico, Argentina, Italy, and Brazil had 90 percent more searches for Notre Dame than for Sri Lanka.
Also, a comparison between Sri Lanka and New Zealand's Christchurch carried out by teleSUR showed that within 24 hours of both incidents, Christchurch was searched more times and by more countries than in the case of Sri Lanka.
Even though New Zealand does not belong to the Western hemisphere, it constitutes mostly English speaking white population which appeals to the Western audience much more than a non-white inhabitant island of Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankan government Monday accused an Islamist militant group National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) for the bombings and imposed emergency all over the country which gives police and the military extensive powers to detain and interrogate suspects without court orders, which will go into effect at midnight Monday, the president's office said.