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Easter Sunday suicide bomber studied in Australia, Sri Lankan minister says

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Sri Lankan authorities have confirmed one of the suicide bombers responsible for the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks attended an Australian university.

Sri Lankan Junior Minister for Defence Ruwan Wijewardene said the bomber completed his post-graduate education in Australia.

It comes after the death toll was revised up to 359 earlier today.

“What I can say is this group, some of the suicide bombers, most of them are well educated and come from maybe middle or upper-middle class,” Mr Wijewardene said.

“Some of them have studied in various other countries, they hold degrees and they are quite well-educated people.

“We believe that one of the suicide bombers studied in the UK and then maybe later on did his post-graduate in Australia before coming back to settle in Sri Lanka.”

Hundreds were killed and 500 injured in a series of coordinated blasts in churches and hotels, in Sri Lanka’s deadliest violence since a devastating civil war ended in 2009.

Sri Lanka police say they have confirmed there were nine suicide bombers. Eight have now been identified.

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said 18 suspects were arrested overnight, raising the total detained to 58.

Two domestic Islamist organisations, including National Thowheeth Jama’ath, are said to be responsible for carrying out the suicide bombings.

Earlier Mr Wijewardene said an initial investigation showed the deadly attacks were carried out in retaliation for last month’s Christchurch mosque shootings.

The office of New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was aware of comments linking Sri Lanka’s Easter bombings to the mosque attacks in Christchurch, but noted the investigation was “in its early stages”.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks via its AMAQ news agency.

The group often claims responsibility for such attacks, whether or not it was involved, but Sri Lankan officials do believe the local groups had links to foreign extremists.

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