Sunday Masses canceled in Sri Lanka following Easter bombings

The U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka has warned people to stay away from places of worship this weekend over concerns about possible further attacks.

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By Associated Press

The archbishop of Colombo says there will be no Sunday Masses until further notice after the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith made the comment during a news conference Friday in the Sri Lankan capital.

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Ranjith appealed for financial support to rebuild the lives of affected people and reconstruct the churches targeted in the Islamic State-claimed suicide bombings, which killed over 250 people on Sunday.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo.Thomas Peter / Reuters

Police had said Wednesday that the death toll had reached 359, but a health official later said that the number had been revised to about 253.

The U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka has warned people to stay away from places of worship this weekend over concerns about possible further attacks. On Friday, authorities urged Muslims not to hold congregational prayers over fears they might be targeted. However, several mosques did under the protection of security forces.

Sri Lankan officials say they continue to search for suspects in the bombings.

Police said Friday that the suspected leader of National Thowheed Jamath, the militant group Sri Lankan authorities said carried out the attacks, died in the blast at the Shangri-La hotel. Police said Mohamed Zahran had died and they had arrested the group's second-in-command.

The bombers were characterized as a "splinter group" of NTJ with connections abroad, said State Minister of Defense Ruwan Wijewardene at a press conference Wednesday.

Australia’s prime minister said earlier Friday that it had been confirmed that the Sri Lanka attackers were supported by the Islamic State group, which had claimed responsibility for the massacre without producing evidence to link it to the attacks.

Elisha Fieldstadt contributed.