Easter bombings were retaliation for Christchurch mosque attacks ‘preliminary investigation’ shows: Sri Lankan state minister

Sri Lankan's defense minister on Tuesday said a 'preliminary investigation' indicated that the Easter Sunday church bombings by a radical Islamist group were retaliation for the New Zealand mosque attacks last month.

Ruwan Wijewardene, a junior minister for defense, cited a preliminary investigation and said the deadly Easter Sunday bombings that resulted in 321 deaths and more than 500 injuries, was revenge for the "attack against Muslims in Christchurch," Reuters reported.

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He made the comment without citing evidence or explaining where the information came from.

Last month, a heavily-armed shooter killed Muslim worshipers during Friday prayers, massacring 49 people in two New Zealand mosques on March 15 while broadcasting a horrific live stream of the terror attack.

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Meanwhile, back in Sri Lanka, security was heightened Tuesday and the military was employing powers to make arrests it last used when the devastating civil war ended in 2009.

The country held its first mass funeral Tuesday for about 30 victims, as the country held a day of mourning. The funeral took palce at St Sebastian church in Negombo, north of Colombo, which was one of the places targeted on Sunday.

Faith leaders cited by AP said the suspected leader of the little-known militant group -- National Thowfeek Jamaath -- began posting videos online three years ago calling for non-Muslims to be "eliminated." The bombers were all Sri Lankan, but authorities said international ties were suspected. Police have now detained 40 suspects in connection with the attack, including a Syrian national, according to the BBC.

"We do not believe these attacks were carried out by a group of people who were confined to this country,” Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne, according to Reuters. “There was an international network without which these attacks could not have succeeded."

Among the 40 people arrested on suspicion of links to the Easter bombings was the driver of a van allegedly used by the suicide bombers and the owner of a house where some of them lived.

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The country is under a state of emergency and the military is operating under enhanced war-time powers following the attacks. Police on Tuesday said that anyone parking a car on the street and leaving unattended must put a note with their phone number on the windscreen. Meanwhile, postal officials said they would no longer accept pre-wrapped parcels for mailing.

The Associated Press contributed to this report