Sri Lanka news: Who was behind Easter massacre that killed 321? Were ISIS involved?

Sri Lanka was rocked by a series of bombings that killed at least 321 people and injured more than 500. The attacks were carried out in churches and high-end hotels in the Kochchikade district of the capital Colombo, Negombo, and in the eastern city of Batticaloa. The Easter massacre is the deadliest violence in the South Asian nation since the end of the civil war a decade ago and most victims are believed to be Sri Lankan, with 31 foreigners among the killed so far.

Who was behind the Easter massacre and were ISIS involved?

On Tuesday ISIS claimed responsibility for the bombings at churches and hotels in Sri Lanka.

The group’s Amaq news agency called the bombers “Islamic State fighters.”

The statement, disseminated on ISIS’ chat rooms on the app Telegram, also said the bombings targeted Christians as well as citizens of countries belonging to the coalition fighting the group.

READ MORE: Horrifying CCTV shows suspected bomber enter church before explosion

But the wording of the statement did not make clear whether ISIS have direct ties to the suicide bombers or if they were inspired by the terrorist group’s calls for Muslims to attack in their home countries.

No group immediately claimed responsibility after the attacks took place but 24 people have been arrested in a series of police raids.

The Sri Lankan Government initially said seven suicide bombers from Sri Lanka, who were part of the National Thowfeek Jamaath group, were responsible for the Easter Sunday bombings.

The Sri Lankan prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe addressed the suicide attacks on Tuesday.

READ MORE: Sri Lanka explosion: Who are the victims of Easter massacre? 

He said investigators have made good progress identifying suspects, adding that some of the bombers had travelled abroad and then returned home.

Mr Wickremesinghe also said “it is possible” the Easter bombings were retaliation for the Christchurch attacks.

When asked about the continued threat, he said: “There are a few people on the run, somehow on the run, so we’ve got to detain them.”

But a Sri Lankan government official, Ruwan Wijewardene, told the parliament the attack was indeed to avenge the killings of the 50 Muslims who lost their lives in New Zealand.

He said: “The preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch.”

Mr Wijewardene, a junior defence minister, did not say what led to the conclusion.

But he later added he did not believe National Thowheeth Jama’ath – or Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim, another local militant group, were involved.

Government officials have said they believe the bombers were local, but had help from abroad.