New Delhi: A top Sri Lanka police chief had reportedly sounded an alert in the country as many as 10 days ago, of suicide bombers planning to hit prominent churches, sources say.

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Foreign news agency AFP reports that police chief Pujuth Jayasundara had sent an intelligence warning to top officers on April 11 setting out the threat. The alert read, “A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ (National Thowheeth Jama’ath) is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo.”

The NTJ is a radical Muslim group in Sri Lanka that came to notice last year when it was linked to the vandalization of Buddhist statues.

At least 156 people were killed and more than 400 injured when suicide bombers exploded themselves in three luxury hotels and three churches in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday in the island’s bloodiest day since the civil war ended a decade ago.

The mayhem began in the morning at the St Anthony’s Shrine at Kochchikade in Colombo when hundreds were gathered for the Easter Mass, and within half hour similar explosions ripped through the St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, 30 km from here, and the Zion Church in the eastern district of Batticaloa, 250 km east of Colombo.

Almost simultaneously, suicide bombers also killed themselves amid Easter crowds in three luxury hotels in the heart of Colombo: Cinnamon Grand, near the official residence of the Sri Lankan Prime Minister, The Shangri La and Kingsbury Hotel, raining death and destruction.

Authorities said that 35 foreigners were among the dead but their nationalities were not immediately known. No group has taken responsibility for the attack yet.

Christians in Sri Lanka had been celebrating the Easter Sunday, an important festival marking the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the culmination of week-long festivities.

Although Christians form only around 7 per cent of the Sri Lanka’s mainly Buddhist population, they are found both in the majority Sinhalese and minority Tamil communities.

With inputs from agencies