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Moment Sri Lanka suicide bomber entered church with huge backpack

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Police have arrested 40 suspects in the Sri Lanka attacks, including the driver of a van allegedly used by suicide bombers and the owner of a house where some of them lived, officials said.

Sri Lankas president gave the military a wider berth to detain and arrest suspects on Tuesday – powers that were used during the 26-year civil war but withdrawn when it ended in 2009.

The death toll from Sundays attacks rose to 310, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said.

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On Tuesday, which president Maithripala Sirisena declared a day of mourning, Sri Lankan authorities planned to brief foreign diplomats and receive assistance from the FBI and other foreign intelligence-gathering agencies after officials disclosed yesterday that warnings had been received weeks ago of the possibility of an attack by the radical Muslim group blamed for the bloodshed.

The six near-simultaneous attacks on three churches and three luxury hotels, along with three related blasts later on Sunday, were the South Asian island nations deadliest violence in a decade.

In this Sunday, April 21, 2019, a view of St. Sebastian's Church damaged in blast in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan authorities blame seven suicide bombers of a domestic militant group for coordinated Easter bombings that ripped through Sri Lankan churches and luxury hotels which killed and injured hundreds of people. It was Sri Lanka's deadliest violence since a devastating civil war in the South Asian island nation ended a decade ago. (AP Photo/Chamila Karunarathne, file)

Police have arrested 40 suspects in the Sri Lanka attacks, including the driver of a van allegedly used by suicide bombers (Picture: AP)

Investigators at the scene of a suicide bombing at St. Sebastian Church in Negombo, Sri Lanka, Monday, April 22, 2019. Easter Sunday bombings of churches, luxury hotels and other sites was Sri Lanka's deadliest violence since a devastating civil war in the South Asian island nation ended a decade ago. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Sri Lankas president gave the military a wider berth to detain and arrest suspects on Tuesday (Picture: AP)

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The government blocked most social media to curtail false information. Even after an overnight, nationwide curfew was lifted, the streets of central Colombo remained mostly deserted and shops closed as armed soldiers stood guard.

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Prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he feared the massacre could unleash instability and he vowed to vest all necessary powers with the defence forces to act against those responsible.

In an indication of the tensions, three explosions caused panic but apparently no injuries on Monday as police were defusing bombs inside a van parked near one of the stricken churches.

Dozens of detonators were discovered near Colombos main bus depot, but officials declined to say whether they were linked to the attacks.

International intelligence agencies had warned that the little-known group, National Thowfeek Jamaath, was planning attacks, but word apparently did not reach the prime ministers office until after the massacre, exposing the continuing political turmoil in the highest levels of the Sri Lankan government.

This handout photo taken and released by the Sri Lankan President's Office on April 23, 2019 shows President Maithripala Sirisena (2nd L) visiting St. Sebastian's church in Negombo, two days after a series of bomb attacks targeting churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka. - Sri Lanka began a day of national mourning April 23 with three minutes of silence to honour more than 300 people killed in suicide bomb blasts that have been blamed on a local Islamist group. (Photo by Handout / SRI LANKAN PRESIDENT'S OFFICE / AFP) / -----EDITORS NOTE --- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / Sri Lankan President's Office " - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTSHANDOUT/AFP/Getty Images

The death toll from Sundays attacks rose to 310, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said (Picture: AFP)

An investigator at the scene of a suicide bombing at St. Sebastian Church in Negombo, Sri Lanka, Monday, April 22, 2019. Easter Sunday bombings of churches, luxury hotels and other sites was Sri Lanka's deadliest violence since a devastating civil war in the South Asian island nation ended a decade ago. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

FBI and other foreign intelligence-gathering agencies after officials disclosed yesterday that warnings had been received weeks ago (Picture: AP)

In this Sunday, April 21, 2019, photo, blood stains are seen on the wall and on a Jesus Christ statue at the St. Sebastian's Church after blast in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan authorities blame seven suicide bombers of a domestic militant group for coordinated Easter bombings that ripped through Sri Lankan churches and luxury hotels which killed and injured hundreds of people. It was Sri Lanka's deadliest violence since a devastating civil war in the South Asian island nation ended a decade ago. (AP Photo, file)

All the bombers were Sri Lankans, but authorities said they strongly suspected foreign links (Picture: AP)

Health minister Rajitha Senaratne said the warnings started on April 4, the defence ministry wrote to the police chief with information that included the groups name and and police wrote on April 11 to the heads of security of the judiciary and diplomatic security division.

Mr Sirisena, who was out of the country on Sunday, had ousted Mr Wickremesinghe in October and dissolved the Cabinet.

The Supreme Court reversed his actions, but the prime minister has not been allowed into meetings of the Security Council since October, leaving him and his government in the dark about the intelligence.

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It was not immediately clear what action, if any, was taken after the threats. Authorities said they knew where the group trained and had safe houses, but did not identify any of the suicide bombers, whose bodies were recovered, or the two dozen other suspects taken into custody.

All the bombers were Sri Lankans, but authorities said they strongly suspected foreign links, Mr Senaratne said.

Sri Lankan soldiers look on inside the St Sebastian's Church at Negombo on April 21, 2019, following a bomb blast during the Easter service that killed worshippers. A series of eight devastating bomb blasts ripped through high-end hotels and churches holding Easter services in Sri Lanka on April 21, killing nearly 200 people, including dozens of foreigners. Photo by Perera Sameera/UPIPHOTOGRAPH BY UPI / Barcroft Images

Authorities said they knew where the group trained and had safe houses (Picture: Barcroft)

Footwear and personal belongs of victims kept close to the scene of a suicide bombing at St. Sebastian Church in Negombo, Sri Lanka, Monday, April 22, 2019. Easter Sunday bombings of churches, luxury hotels and other sites was Sri Lanka's deadliest violence since a devastating civil war in the South Asian island nation ended a decade ago. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

The government blocked most social media to curtail false information (Picture: AP)

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