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More than a day after the Easter Sunday suicide bombings in Sri Lanka that claimed the lives of nearly 300 people, little has been revealed or said about the militant group government officials are blaming for the violence.

Multiple media reports cited Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne as saying Monday that an obscure organization called National Thowfeek Jamaath was behind the blasts that rocked churches and luxury hotels yesterday in and around Colombo – Sri Lanka’s capital and largest city.

But officials from the island nation off the coast of India still have not produced evidence directly tying the group to the bombings. Officials told The Wall Street Journal their suspicions are hinging on information received from an unnamed foreign government in the lead-up to the attacks, alleging that National Thowfeek Jamaath had been planning acts of violence. Yet those warnings, they added, were not clear enough to take action on.

Even the spelling of the group appears to have formed a divided consensus among the international news media, with translations of its name appearing in reports as everything from Nations Thawahid Jaman to National Thawheed Jama’ut.

SRI LANKA AUTHORITIES WARNED OF EASTER CHURCH BOMBINGS WEEKS BEFORE SUNDAY’S MASSACRE, OFFICIALS SAY

And adding to the confusion: no militant group as of late Monday has claimed responsibility for the Sri Lanka bombings. The Associated Press has quoted Senaratne as saying that whichever group carried out the attacks likely had help from outside the country – further widening the scope of the investigation.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena announced Monday that as of midnight tonight, the country’s military will be granted war-time powers to arrest and detain suspects in the bombings probe. The Associated Press reported 24 people are already in custody for questioning, but their names, ages and affiliations are unclear.

Anne Speckhard, the director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism, told the New York Times that National Thowfeek Jamaath’s mission is to generate hate, fear and divisions through the spread of the global jihadist movement.

The group originated in 2009 on Sri Lanka’s east coast and became known for vandalizing Buddhist statues and stoking religious tensions, according to The Wall Street Journal.

In March 2017, the group was involved in a clash in the Muslim-majority town of Kattankudy – near one of Sunday’s church bombing sites – that left three hospitalized and resulted in 10 arrests, the New York Times says, citing a local media report.

The Indian Express website says the group was formed in Kattankudy and has been pushing for Sharia law in the region.

Yet the Easter Sunday bombings would represent a new – and radical — escalation of violence for National Thowfeek Jamaath and its supporters.

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“This attack took a lot of planning, which is surprising for a group that most have never heard of,” Raffaello Pantucci, a member of the London-based Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies think tank, told The Wall Street Journal. “That makes me suspect that there is an external link, and Islamic State or Al Qaeda are the obvious suspects.”

Researchers also told the newspaper that Christians and Westerners are increasingly coming under attack by extremists in Asia and Africa.

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Former CIA station chief Daniel Hoffman called the deadly Easter Sunday explosions at multiple churches and hotels in Sri Lanka “an intelligence failure.”

“This is by all accounts an intelligence failure. Security services are responsible for penetrating local extremist groups, understanding their nexus to other overseas transnational groups and then collecting intelligence so they can pre-empt attacks and that didn’t happen in this case and as a result we have almost 300 dead and 500 wounded,” said Hoffman, a Fox News contributor, on “America’s Newsroom” on Monday.

A pair holding dual U.S. and British nationalities was among the 11 foreigners killed after a series of explosions struck three churches and three luxury hotels in and just outside Sri Lanka’s capital Easter Sunday, leaving at least 290 people dead and more than 500 others injured, officials said.

EASTER SUNDAY EXPLOSIONS AT MULTIPLE CHURCHES AND HOTELS ROCK SRI LANKA, DEATH TOLL RISES PAST 200

The U.S. State Department confirmed in a statement that “several U.S. citizens were among those killed” in the explosions, although no more information was immediately available.

“One of the things I think we’ll be looking at is the number of Sri Lankans who traveled to the so-called Islamic caliphate, some of whom apparently have returned. Were they part of this group? Did they make contacts with Al Qaeda or with the Islamic state? Those are open questions,” said Hoffman.

He added, “I just don’t believe this was a locally-conducted attack. There’s too many people. Already 24 arrested. It’s a massive undertaking with a support network I think that would demand international collaboration but we don’t have a lot of facts.”

The six nearly simultaneous blasts—followed hours later by two more explosions—marked the bloodshed as among the worst since the South Asian country’s 26-year civil war ended a decade ago, a spokesperson for the Sri Lanka police said.

POPE CELEBRATES EASTER SUNDAY AMID BLOODSHED IN SRI LANKA

Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said all of the suicide bombers were Sri Lankan citizens from a domestic Muslim militant group named National Thowfeek Jamaath, but that authorities suspect foreign links.

Police said more than a dozen suspects have been arrested, though there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

“This terrorist attack really bears all the hallmarks of an Al Qaeda attack, where you had three churches and three hotels frequented by foreigners all attacked over a short amount of time and over distance, that’s a traditional way that Al Qaeda likes to mount attacks. Multiple spectacular attacks to drive first responders to multiple areas and achieve maximum effect in the press afterwards,” said Hoffman. “What’s surprising about this attack is that no one thus far has claimed responsibility.”

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He added, “The security services in Sri Lanka are in the unenviable position right now of simultaneously conducting forensics to determine what happened and then try to determine whether there are other threats out there that they need to preempt. Just today a ninth improvised explosive device was found near the airport, so there’s a lot of concern.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Despite official pledges to curb the ever-growing murder rate in Mexico, it seems to only be on the uptick.

Data released this week from the National System for Public Security shows the homicide rate south of the border has continued to soar throughout the first three months of 2019.

Some 8,493 people were documented to have been murdered between Jan. 1 and March 3, signaling a 9.6 percent jump from 2018, which was already considered a cause for concern considering it was a significant jump from the year before.

According to the official stats, the most violent state is Guanajuato in the central part of the country. The violence there is mainly attributed to clashes between rivaling cartels Jalisco New Generation and Santa Rosa de Lima, both of which are vying for authority. While there are 947 murder cases under investigation in Guanajuato, this is followed by 769 open investigations in Mexico state and a further 720 in Jalisco.

CRUELTY OF EL CHAPO’S SINALOA CARTEL KNOWS NO BOUNDS: BEHEADINGS BY CHAINSAW, BODY PARTS STREWN IN THE STREETS

Last month, Tijuana – the city bordering California – was deemed by Mexico’s Citizens’ Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice to be the most violent city in the world. Tijuana had 2,519 murders in 2018 – a forty percent hike from 2017 which in itself was a “record-breaking” year, according to KQED Public Media.

Experts have also pointed to inter-cartel bloodshed and a tussle for control between the Sinaloa and the Jalisco New Generation as the main driver for the homicides, as factions seek to cement a foothold in the enshrined smugglers’ hub into the United States.

Overall, Mexico experienced an unparalleled number of murders in 2018 and 2017, with the country’s Interior Ministry documenting a 33 percent ascent from 2017 to 2018 – underscoring that 33,341 murder investigations were opened last year.

RED CROSS TO GET ARMED ESCORTS IN VIOLENT MEXICAN CITY

And with 2019 already on-track to surpass that number, tensions are mounting.

Mexico’s new President, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador – who was sworn in on December 1 – clashed with reporters earlier this month and insisted that the homicide rate is “under control,” and has not escalated since he took office, according to the BBC.

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Obrador campaigned on the promise of bringing down homicide numbers in the violent nation he inherited and has vowed to create a new 80,000-person national guard force to combat the “war on drugs” and defeat and diminish the influence of the vigorous drug cartels that have long gripped Mexico.

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A Frenchman has died after his sailboat capsized off the coast of the Italian island of Sardinia but his female companion has survived.

Italian news agency ANSA said strong winds Sunday turned the boat over in waters off the southern end of the Mediterranean island. The woman and the couple’s dog were rescued and were quickly plucked to safety.

ANSA said the Italian coast guard found the Frenchman’s body on a nearby rocky reef.

The sailboat capsized as it was apparently heading back to port after conditions worsened.

Elsewhere in southern Italy, wind-whipped waters caused the cancellation of ferry runs between Sicily and the Aeolian islands, isolating residents and tourists on the archipelago.

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A British aid worker and a Nigerian man were shot dead after being kidnapped with three other people in an attack at a resort in Nigeria on Friday, officials said.

The British High Commission said in a statement Sunday that Faye Mooney, 29, was killed when gunmen attacked the Kajuru Castle holiday resort in Kaduna state, located in the north-central part of Nigeria.

Mooney worked as a communications specialist for the aid group Mercy Corps, and was one of 12 tourists traveling to Kaduna from Lagos, according to Kaduna state police spokesman Yakubu Sabo.

AMERICAN TOURIST, GUIDE WHO WERE FREED AFTER KIDNAPPING IN UGANDA PICTURED AS TRUMP URGES CAPTORS’ CAPTURE

The 29-year-old, who has lived in Nigeria for nearly two years, was attending a party before the incident, Sky News reported.

Faye Mooney, 29, had lived in Nigeria for two years and worked as a communications specialist for Mercy Corps before the deadly attack on Friday.

Faye Mooney, 29, had lived in Nigeria for two years and worked as a communications specialist for Mercy Corps before the deadly attack on Friday. (YouTube)

Mercy Corps said in a statement it was “utterly heartbroken” by the killing.

“Faye was a dedicated and passionate communications and learning specialist who had worked with Mercy Corps for almost two years, devoting her time to making a difference in Nigeria, supporting our teams and the communities we work with to tell their stories of impact, and leading efforts to counter hate speech and violence,” the group said.

AMERICAN TOURIST, DRIVER ABDUCTED IN UGANDA RELEASED BY CAPTORS, OFFICIALS SAY

Sabo told reporters the gunmen kidnapped three other people but officials did not release details of their nationalities. Officers have not yet named the other person killed in the incident.

No individuals or groups have claimed responsibility for the killings, and police have yet to identify the kidnappers.

Northern Nigeria has been dealing with violence from Islamic militants affiliated with Boko Haram and ISIS, in addition to clashes between farmers and herders, in which hundreds have died.

The region has seen a spate of kidnappings by armed men in recent months, according to Sky News.

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Earlier this month, an American tourist and her safari guide were kidnapped by gunmen in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park. Kimberly Sue Endicott and her guide, Jean-Paul Mirenge Ramezo, were eventually found alive in Congo, where their kidnappers had taken them after abducting them.

The kidnappers had demanded a $500,000 ransom after abducting the two at gunpoint. Ugandan officials say no ransom was paid, but a tourism operator said that money was paid to secure Endicott’s release.

Fox News’ Katherine Lam and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Officials say homicides in Mexico rose by 9.7% in the first quarter of 2019 compared to the same period of 2018. The 8,493 killings in the first three months of 2019 are the most on record for the period.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador says he wants to reduce violence through social programs and a new militarized police force known as the National Guard. He says effects should be felt in about six months.

Lopez Obrador said Monday that Mexico is “starting to stabilize, so that violence won’t continue to grow at the same rate.” But he noted “it’s going to take some time.”

The rate did appear to slow; homicides were up by 11% and 16% in January and February respectively, but rose only 2.7% in March.

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Three of Danish billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen’s four children were among the nearly 300 people killed on Easter Sunday when Islamic suicide bombers attacked hotels and churches in Sri Lanka, a spokesperson for Povlsen’s company confirmed.

Holch Povlsen, his wife Anne Holch Povlsen and the couple’s four children were in Colombo during the Easter holiday when the suicide bombing occurred. They were staying at the Shangri-La hotel, which was targeted by two suicide bombers Sunday, Forbes reported.

“Unfortunately, we can confirm the reports,” Bestseller spokesperson Jesper Stubkier told Forbes. “We ask you to respect the privacy of the family and we, therefore, have no further comments.”

Anders Holch Povlsen and his wife Anne Holch Povlsen's three children were among the hundreds killed in the Sri Lanka attacks.

Anders Holch Povlsen and his wife Anne Holch Povlsen’s three children were among the hundreds killed in the Sri Lanka attacks. (Getty Images)

The spokesman did not provide further information on where the Holch Povlsen family was when the attacks occurred. The identities of the children were not released.

SRI LANKA ON EDGE AFTER LOCAL ISLAMIC MILITANT GROUP BLAMED FOR EASTER SUNDAY ATTACKS: REPORT

An Instagram account identified as belonging to one of Holch Povlsen’s children featured a post from several days ago showing her and two of her siblings. The Instagram post has since been flooded with condolences for the family, though it’s unclear if those pictured were the children who died.

The 46-year-old business tycoon is the richest person in Denmark with a net worth of $7.9 billion. He is the biggest shareholder of British online retailer Asos and the largest landowner in Scotland. Holch Povlsen also holds significant stakes in Zalando and Klarna.

Bestseller CEO Anders Holch Povlsen's three of four children were killed.

Bestseller CEO Anders Holch Povlsen’s three of four children were killed. (Getty Images)

Sunday’s coordinated bombings, which ripped through churches and luxury hotels, were carried out by seven suicide bombers from a militant group believed to be National Thowfeek Jamaath, Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said.

SRI LANKA CHURCH, HOTEL MASSACRE VICTIMS INCLUDE TV CHEF, MOTHER AND SON, AMERICANS

Senaratne said the international intelligence agencies warned of attacks several times since the start of April, but Sri Lankan officials still failed to stop the deadly bombings.

A Sri Lankan Police officer inspects a blast spot at the Shangri-la hotel in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

A Sri Lankan Police officer inspects a blast spot at the Shangri-la hotel in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (AP)

Among those killed was Dieter Kowalski, a 40-year-old man from Denver, Colo., who landed in the country on Sunday, his employer confirmed to FOX31.

“We mourn Dieter deeply today. We pray for his soul, and for his family and friends,” the email from Pearson’s CEO John Fallon said. “We pray, too, for our colleagues in Sri Lanka, and Denver, and Boston, and in Pearson offices around the world.”

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The Daily Telegraph reported five British nationals are among the dead, including Shantha Mayadunne, a TV chef, and her daughter, Nisanga.

Shantha Mayadunne’s website identified her as the first chef to host a live cooking show in Sri Lanka. She also had published multiple books.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, driven from power and now languishing in a prison where his opponents were once jailed and tortured, is more vulnerable than ever to a decade-old international arrest warrant for war crimes committed in Darfur.

But the military, which forced him from power after four months of mass protests, says it won’t extradite him to the International Criminal Court at the Hague.

Even many of al-Bashir’s opponents are reluctant to hand him over to the ICC, saying they prefer to bring him to justice in Sudan.

Any attempt to hold him and other top officials accountable could pose risks to the transition to civilian rule sought by the protesters.

The Darfur conflict broke out in 2003, eventually killing an estimated 300,000 people and displacing some 2.7 million.

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The Night King’s reign of terror is reportedly over — and that’s not a Season 8 spoiler.

The “Game of Thrones” character was caught, cuffed and taken into custody last week by the Trondheim Police Department, who wanted to tap into the hype of the eighth and final season of the hit HBO show.

Trondheim Police in Norway "arrested" the Night King from HBO's "Game of Thornes" for a satirical post celebrating the hit show's final season.

Trondheim Police in Norway “arrested” the Night King from HBO’s “Game of Thornes” for a satirical post celebrating the hit show’s final season. (Trondheim Police/Facebook)

“The police have received many complains about a man from the northern region involved in criminal activity,” the department said in a satirical Facebook post on April 15 – the day after the show’s season premiere.

‘GAME OF THRONES’ FINAL SEASON LAS VEGAS ODDS REVEAL BIZARRE THEORIES ABOUT HBO HIT

“Complaints include animal cruelty and property damage (there have been reports of a wall being destroyed), as well as threats to lay vast areas of land desolate.”

The Night King from HBO's "Game of Throne" getting his mugshot taken after his "arrest" by the Trondheim Police in Norway.

The Night King from HBO’s “Game of Throne” getting his mugshot taken after his “arrest” by the Trondheim Police in Norway. (Trondheim Police/Facebook)

The Night King’s transgressions were a nod to the character’s javelin takedown of a dragon in Season 7.

“Our night watch has now apprehended the man to deter any further criminal activity on his behalf,” the police said.

The Night King from HBO's "Game of Throne" getting his mugshot taken after his "arrest" by the Trondheim Police in Norway.

The Night King from HBO’s “Game of Throne” getting his mugshot taken after his “arrest” by the Trondheim Police in Norway. (Trondheim Police/Facebook)

The Facebook post includes photos of the Night King – dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit – posing for a mugshot and then being led to a jail cell.

Trondheim police told SYFY Wire why the satirical post was also important.

The Night King from HBO's "Game of Thrones" in a solitary jail cell after his "arrested" by the Trondheim Police in Norway.

The Night King from HBO’s “Game of Thrones” in a solitary jail cell after his “arrested” by the Trondheim Police in Norway. (Trondheim Police/Facebook)

“These kinds of posts generate a lot of attention and new followers for us,” the department said in a statement to the website. “That’s useful when we later ask for help i.e. solving crimes or [searching] for missing persons.”

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The department said the person behind the Night King mask was one of the younger officers, who’d been “handpicked for the job.”

“The response has been overwhelming and by far our most liked, commented and shared post,” the police added. “We are great fans. Valar Morghulis.”

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Myanmar’s Supreme Court is to rule Tuesday on the appeal of two Reuters journalists who were sentenced to seven years in prison for their reporting on the military’s brutal crackdown on Rohingya Muslims.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo earlier this month shared with their colleagues the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting, one of journalism’s highest honors.

They were arrested in December 2017 and sentenced last September to seven years’ imprisonment after being accused of illegally possessing official documents, a violation of the colonial-era Official Secrets Act.

They denied the allegation and contended they were framed by police. International rights groups, media freedom organizations, U.N experts and several governments including the United States condemned their conviction as an injustice and an attack on freedom of the press.

Source: Fox News World


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