Sri Lankans urged to avoid mosques, churches amid fears of more attacks

Sri Lankans urged to avoid mosques, churches amid fears of more attacks
Sri Lankans urged to avoid mosques, churches amid fears of more attacks

Sri Lankan President MaithripalaSirisena said on Friday police are looking for 140 people believed to havelinks with the Islamic State group, which has claimed responsibility for theEaster Sunday suicide bombings of churches and hotels.

Muslims in Sri Lanka were urged topray at home on Friday and not attend mosques or churches after the StateIntelligence Services warned of possible car bomb attacks, amid fears ofretaliatory violence for the bombings that killed 253 people.

The U.S. embassy in Sri Lanka also urged its citizens to avoid places of worship over the coming weekend after authorities reported there could be more attacks targeting religious centres.

Sri Lanka remains on edge after thesuicide bombing attacks on three churches and four hotels that also woundedabout 500 people.

Nearly 10,000 soldiers were beingdeployed across the Indian Ocean island state to carry out searches and providesecurity for religious centres, the military said on Friday.

Fears of retaliatory sectarianviolence have already caused Muslim communities to flee their homes amid bombscares, lockdowns and security sweeps.

The All Ceylon Jamiyathul Ullama, SriLanka's main Islamic religious body, urged Muslims to conduct prayers at homeon Friday in case "there is a need to protect family and properties".

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith alsoappealed to priests not to conduct mass at churches until further notice.

"Securityis important," he said.

Police have detained at least 76people, including foreigners from Syria and Egypt, in their investigations sofar.

Islamic State provided no evidence toback its claim that it was behind the attacks. If true, it would be one of theworst attacks carried out by the group outside Iraq and Syria.

The extremist group released a videoon Tuesday showing eight men, all but one with their faces covered, standingunder a black Islamic State flag and declaring their loyalty to its leader, AbuBakr Al-Baghdadi.

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