COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — A Sri Lankan court on Friday ordered police to exhume the remains of an Easter Sunday suicide bomber from a public cemetery after hundreds of people, including relatives of victims, blocked roads in an angry protest.
Police fired tear gas to disperse the protesters, who complained that the burial had been conducted without their consent.
The court told police to remove and relocate the head of the suicide bomber buried at Kalliyankadu cemetery in the eastern town of Batticaloa, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekare said.
The head is the only known remains of the bomber who attacked the Zion church in Batticaloa, about 320 kilometers (200 miles) east of the capital, Colombo. The blast at the church killed 27 people and wounded more than 70.
Attacks by Islamic extremists on a total of three churches and three luxury hotels on Easter Sunday killed 263 people.
Gunasekare said when police briefed the Magistrate’s Court in Batticaloa about this week’s protest, the court ordered police to “exhume the buried head on Monday” and bury it at another location to be determined by the city’s top official.
“Until the burial place is determined, the court ordered the head to be kept at the mortuary of the government hospital in the area, under police protection,” he said.
The bomber was buried in the public cemetery after Muslims reportedly declined to allow his burial at a Muslim burial ground.
The attacks by nine suicide bombers from a local Muslim group, National Thowheed Jammath, were the most deadly by Islamic State group-linked militants in South Asia.
Seven bombers directly participated in the attacks. Another committed suicide after his attempt failed, while another killed herself to avoid capture.
Sri Lankan leaders and the security establishment have come under fire for not acting on near-specific intelligence information on possible attacks on churches. The government has acknowledged that some intelligence units were aware of possible attacks weeks before the bombings.
The blasts, which killed a number of foreign tourists, caused a serious setback to the country’s lucrative tourism industry.
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