Sri Lanka beefs up security around mosques after intelligence inputs of terror attack

Sri Lanka Blasts A Sri Lankan police officer patrols out side a mosque in Colombo, Sri Lanka; the Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the Sri Lanka attacks on Easter Sunday | AP

Security has been beefed up around "a certain category of mosques" in Sri Lanka after intelligence warning that the Islamist extremist group blamed for the deadly Easter blasts was planning an attack on them during Friday prayers, a media report said Thursday.

Nine suicide bombers, believed to be members of local Islamist extremist group called National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ), carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through three churches and three luxury hotels on the Easter Sunday, killing 359 people.

A letter, signed by DIG Priyantha Jayakody on behalf of Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara, warned that the group which had carried out the Easter blasts was planning an attack on mosques on Friday, the Times Online reported.

The letter dated April 24, 2018 said a certain category of mosques identified as 'Awliya Mosques' could be possible target for these attacks.

"Security has been tightened in the vicinity of all mosques owing to these possible attacks. Therefore, the public need not worry," Jayakodi said.

The letter was addressed to the Presidential Security Division, the Special Security Division, and the Prime Minister's Security Division urging that the matter be brought to the immediate attention of the relevant authorities.

Chairman of the Dewatagaha Mosque in Colombo said that the State Intelligence Service has informed him of a possible threat by the group, which was involved in the Sunday's carnage.

He said that intelligence officers have also informed him that other mosques too would be warned of a possible attack in order for devotees to remain vigilant of possible threats.

Meanwhile, Minister of Muslim Religious Affairs Abdul Haleem has requested the community members to avoid gathering for congregational prayers this Friday.

"We stand with the Christian brothers and sisters during their time of grief," he said in a statement.

The Lankan authorities Thursday intensified their raids with the help of the army and arrested 16 more suspects in connection with the attacks, taking the total number of suspects under police custody to 76. Many of the arrested people have suspected links to the NTJ.

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the government has blamed the NTJ.