• Monday, Jan 20, 2020
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Sri Lanka lowers attacks toll to 253 as some 'double-counted'

  • Published at 10:44 pm April 25th, 2019
A priest arranges flowers at the site of a mass burial in Negombo, Sri Lanka, April 25, 2019 Reuters

The health ministry said medical examiners had completed all autopsies by late Thursday

Sri Lankan authorities on Thursday revised the toll from Easter bombings down to 253, from the previous figure of 359, explaining that some of the badly mutilated bodies had been double-counted.

The health ministry said medical examiners had completed all autopsies by late Thursday, and had concluded that several victims killed in the series of attacks had been counted more than once, reports AFP.

The official toll released by the police was reduced by 106 after the reconciliation of autopsy and DNA reports, the ministry said in a statement.

"Many of the victims were badly mutilated... There was double counting," the ministry said.

The government has blamed a local Islamist group for the Easter Sunday carnage, in which suicide bombers attacked high-end hotels popular with foreigners and churches packed with Christian faithful.

Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando resigned over the failure to prevent the attacks, although he insisted on Thursday that the authorities had been acting in response to intelligence tips from India warning of imminent attacks.

"We were working on that. All those agencies were working on that," Fernando told Reuters. He said he had resigned to take responsibility for institutions he ran, but said there had been no failure on his part.

Police issued names and photographs of four men and three women wanted in connection with the attacks, as bomb scares and security sweeps kept the country on edge.

Most of the victims were Sri Lankans, although authorities have said at least 38 foreigners were also killed, many tourists sitting to breakfast at top-end hotels when the bombers struck.

The health ministry did not break down the new death toll in terms of locals and foreigners.

Despite the toll revision, the coordinated attacks remain the worst in the island nation of 21 million people since a civil war ended a decade ago.

The health ministry said 485 people had initially been hospitalized with injuries, but only 149 remained in hospital as of Thursday evening, with the others being discharged after treatment.