News World Sri Lanka hunts more bombers, warns of ‘imminent’ attacks as death toll drops

Sri Lanka hunts more bombers, warns of ‘imminent’ attacks as death toll drops

Sri Lanka attacks
Police made errors when inspecting the fatalities because there were "so many body parts". Photo: AAP
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Sri Lankan police are engaged in an urgent hunt for six bombing suspects amid warnings that a new wave of terror attacks could be imminent.

Hundreds of police officers swept through Colombo overnight, shutting down large parts of the Sri Lankan capital as they searched for three men and three women they say are connected to the Easter Sunday attacks, the New York Times reported on Friday.

The manhunt comes as Sri Lanka dramatically reduced the death toll from the suicide bombings by 106, blaming the original estimate on a calculation error and the difficulty in identifying bodies.

Police officials were quoted by the Times as saying they feared there were at least two people at large who had planned to be suicide bombers.

They said they had information that another attack was imminent, posted the suspects’ pictures on social media and urged anyone with information about them to call a hotline.

Security services also circulated a memo saying that the group that carried out the Easter attacks could be “specifically targeting Sufi shrines”.

Sri Lanka’s health ministry earlier revised the Easter death toll down from 359 to 253, releasing a statement on Thursday night that it had double-counted many “badly mutilated bodies”.

The ministry did not say whether it also had to amend the number of foreigners killed, compared to locals.

Anil Jasinghe, the director general of Sri Lanka’s health services, said there were initially “so many body parts”, it was, therefore “difficult to give a precise figure”, noting that the Sunday blasts took place in closely confined spaces.

“The death toll from the Easter Sunday attacks is at least 253, our first estimates were 290 and it will be reduced to 253,” Mr Jasinghe said in a statement.

“Therefore media reports saying that the death toll is 359 are not correct. It should be 253.”

Ruwan Wijewardene, Sri Lanka’s deputy defence minister whose ministry is responsible for the island’s police force, said the death toll had been revised down because of inaccurate figures provided by the country’s morgues.

“Unfortunately the health ministry provided the earlier number to us,” he said.

At least 38 foreigners were killed, four of them Australian citizens or permanent residents, many of them tourists sitting down to breakfast at top-end hotels when the bombers struck three Christian churches and three luxury hotels across the island nation.

The amended death toll means the Sri Lanka bombings are no longer considered to be the deadliest ever claimed by Islamic State.

A series of coordinated bombings carried out by the group in Baghdad in 2016 killed 340 people, while a bombing and mass shooting claimed by the group at a Sufi mosque in the Sinai desert the following year killed an estimated 311.

-with AAP

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