COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Militants linked to Easter suicide bombings opened fire and set off explosives during a raid by Sri Lankan security forces on a house in the country’s east, leaving behind a grisly discovery Saturday: 15 bodies, including six children.
The gunbattle that began Friday night and the carnage that followed came amid widespread fear of more attacks as officials hunt for militants with explosives believed to still be at large after the coordinated bombings of churches and luxury hotels that killed more than 250 people nearly a week ago.
Raids and police curfews have shut down areas of eastern Sri Lanka, and Catholic leaders have canceled Sunday Masses indefinitely. Officials also urged Muslims to stay home for prayers in an extraordinary call by the clergy to curtail worship.
The gunfight came after police tipped off soldiers about a suspected safe house near the town of Sammanthurai, where authorities said the militants detonated three explosions and opened fire.
Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said some of the dead likely were militants who blew themselves up in suicide bombings. Earlier, the military said at least one civilian had been killed in the attack.
A girl and a woman survived the explosion at the suspected safe house but were critically injured and being treated at a hospital, Gunasekara said.
Photographs taken by The Associated Press show the charred remains of one child and the body of another wearing a green T-shirt with the words “good boy” written on the back. The bodies of an adult woman and man were found after the explosion with their clothes burned off.
Meanwhile, the military said security forces had recovered explosives, detonators, “suicide kits,” military uniforms and Islamic State group flags in the ongoing raids.
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