Sri Lanka explosions: Local Muslim leaders call for 'maximum punishment' for culprits

The St Anthony's Shrine in Colombo on April 22, 2019, a day after the building was hit in a series of bomb blasts targeting churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka. PHOTO: AFP

COLOMBO (AFP) - Top Muslim leaders in Sri Lanka on Monday (April 22) demanded "maximum punishment" for the perpetrators of suicide bomb attacks on Christian churches and luxury hotels in the country that left at least 290 dead.

The comments came as the government refused to give details of at least 24 people arrested over the Easter Sunday attacks, for fear of fanning ethnic tensions. Scores of Christians were among the dead.

"We urge the government to provide security to all religious sites and to give maximum punishment to everyone involved in these dastardly acts," said the All Ceylon Jamiyyathuul Ulama, or council of Muslim theologians.

"On behalf of the Sri Lankan Muslim community, we offer our condolences to the people of Christian faith and extend our hands of friendship in solidarity."

The top theologians added in a statement that they had met the Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith following the attacks on three churches celebrating Easter mass.

The National Shoora Council, a group of 18 Muslim organisations also expressed condolences and said the government must not "leave any stone unturned in its efforts to apprehend the culprits whoever they may be and to whatever part of the populace they may belong to".

While the authorities have not identified those arrested for the attacks, a police source said the 24 all come from one radical group.

Ten days before the attacks, Sri Lanka's police chief issued a national alert saying a radical Muslim organisation could be planning suicide attacks on "prominent churches".

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