ISIS flags and explosives found in Sri Lanka raids

Sri Lankan security forces were involved in a shootout and seized bomb-making equipment during raids in the eastern part of the country Friday, as they searched for suspects linked to the Easter Sunday bombings.

A cache of explosives was seized from a house in Samanthurai, following a raid on intelligence information, police said. Security forces also found ISIS uniforms, flags, 150 sticks of explosive Gelignite, 100,000 ball bearings and a drone camera.

Three explosions were reported in nearby Kalmunai. Security forces exchanged fire during a security operation in the Sainda-Marudu area of the city, police said.

The raids came after the coordinated attacks on Easter Sunday, which killed 253 people, including many worshipers attending Easter Mass services.

National Tawheed Jamath (NTJ), a local extremist group, has been blamed for the bombings, but has not claimed the attacks. ISIS claimed responsibility, but a link between the attackers and the terror group has not been proven.

A news agency linked to ISIS released a video of the purported attackers, which showed them standing in front of a black ISIS banner.

Sri Lankan authorities have been attempting attempting root out any “sleeper” cells who could initiate another round of attacks, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told CNN on Thursday.

On Friday, Sri Lanka’s President announced a “major search operation” in Sri Lanka.

“Every household in the country will be checked,” President Maithripala Sirisena told a press conference according to a statement. “The lists of permanent residents of every house will be established to ensure no unknown persons could live anywhere.”

The heightened tensions have put Sri Lankans on edge.

Catholic Sunday masses have been suspended “until further notice” in Sri Lanka, the Archbishop of Colombo Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith announced on Friday. He said the move will ensure the safety of the worshipers, and that the church “will try to introduce some services” once better security was in place.

The government urged Muslims not to stay at home for Friday prayers, and many mosques were closed. However, some mosques defied the call, opening for the midday prayers.

Both Christianity and Islam are minority religions in Sri Lanka, each accounting for under 10% of the total population. The vast majority of Sri Lankans identify as Buddhist.