Sri Lanka investigates Easter bombings

11:32 p.m. ET, April 23, 2019

New Zealand and France spearhead efforts to end use of social media for acts of terrorism

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to the media in Auckland, New Zealand to announce that France and New Zealand will lead global efforts to try to end the use of social media to organise and promote terrorism.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to the media in Auckland, New Zealand to announce that France and New Zealand will lead global efforts to try to end the use of social media to organise and promote terrorism. Phil Walter/Getty Images

New Zealand and France are convening world leaders and tech giants to end the use of social media platforms for organizing and promoting terror acts. The meeting, co-chaired by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron, will take place in Paris on May 15, the New Zealand government has announced.

The meeting was prompted by the March terror attack on mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch, and aims to get tech giants pledge to "eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online," a statement says.

Social networks were also blocked in Sri Lanka after Sunday's attacks, with the government citing "false reports." Facebook and Whatsapp continued to be unavailable on Wednesday, say CNN staffers on the ground.

Ardern has urged tech companies to get on board with the initiative:

The March 15 terrorist attacks saw social media used in an unprecedented way as a tool to promote an act of terrorism and hate. We are asking for a show of leadership to ensure social media cannot be used again the way it was in the March 15 terrorist attack.
We’re calling on the leaders of tech companies to join with us and help achieve our goal of eliminating violent extremism online at the Christchurch Summit in Paris.

11:05 p.m. ET, April 23, 2019

BREAKING: Death toll rises to 359

Sri Lankan police tell CNN the death toll has jumped to 359, up from a previous count of 321 people.

10:24 p.m. ET, April 23, 2019

CNN exclusive: ISIS suspect gave advance warning of Sri Lanka bombings, Indian official says

A still from the video released by the Amaq news agency, claiming to show the Sri Lanka bombers
A still from the video released by the Amaq news agency, claiming to show the Sri Lanka bombers ISIS

Early warnings from India's intelligence services to Sri Lankan officials ahead of the Easter Sunday bombings were based on information gleaned from an ISIS suspect, CNN has learned.

Delhi passed on unusually specific intelligence in the weeks and days leading up to the attacks, Sri Lankan officials have said, and at least some of it was gleaned from material obtained during interrogations of an ISIS suspect arrested in India, an Indian official told CNN.

The suspect gave investigators the name of a man he trained in Sri Lanka, who is associated with a local extremist group implicated in the bombings, the source said. The man, Zahran Hashim, was identified in a video of the purported attackers released Tuesday by ISIS, which claimed responsibility for the Easter Sunday killings.

In a statement published by the ISIS-affiliated news agency Amaq, the group said the attackers were "fighters of the Islamic State."

The involvement of a foreign organization would explain how a previously marginal domestic extremist group blamed for the attacks, National Tawheed Jamath (NTJ), could have pulled off one of the worst terrorist atrocities since 9/11.

Read more here

10:32 p.m. ET, April 23, 2019

Sri Lanka to restructure security divisions in wake of attack

Sri Lankan security personnel on high alert on the evening of April 23 in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankan security personnel on high alert on the evening of April 23 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Atul Loke/Getty Images

Changes in top positions in Sri Lanka’s security divisions will be made within 24 hours, President Maithripala Sirisena said Tuesday in a video message to the nation. 

“I expect to conduct a complete restructuring of security divisions,” including the army and police, in the coming week, he said.

“Mainly within the next 24 hours I expect to make changes in top positions of security divisions,” Sirisena added.