Sri Lanka church bomber’s remains exhumed after protests

FILE - In this April 21, 2019 file photo, Sri Lankan Army soldiers secure the area around St. Anthony's Shrine after a blast in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka's attorney general advised the acting police chief on Monday, June 24, 2019, to launch a criminal investigation of the former defense secretary over "major lapses" that contributed to security failures ahead of Easter Sunday suicide bombings that killed more than 250 people. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena, File)

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka:  The remains of a suicide bomber who attacked a church in eastern Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday were exhumed on Monday after a court order that they be reburied elsewhere following public protests.

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said the remains were removed from Kalliyankadu cemetery in the presence of a judge, a medical officer and police and were taken to a hospital morgue. They will remain there with police protection until the government provides a new burial site.

An official last week said the remains consisted only of a head, but Gunasekara said they also included some other body parts.

Hundreds of people had protested the burial of Mohamed Azar, who attacked Zion Church in Batticaloa town, killing 27 people and wounding more than 70 others.

Co-ordinated Easter Sunday suicide bomb attacks on three churches and three tourist hotels killed more than 260 people in total.

Two local Islamic extremist groups that pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group are blamed for the attacks, which also wounded more than 500 people.

Islamic clerics expressed outrage at the attacks and did not allow the bodies of the suicide bombers to be buried in Muslim cemeteries, declaring them non-Muslims. Kalliyankadu is a public cemetery divided into Christian and Hindu sections, and a resident said the bomber’s remains had been buried in the Hindu section.