COLOMBO: All of Sri Lanka's Catholic churches have been ordered to stay closed and suspend services until security improves after deadly Easter bombings, a senior priest told AFP Thursday.
"On the advice of the security forces we are keeping all churches closed," the priest said. "There will be no public mass said until further notice."
Search continues for bombing suspects
Sri Lanka deployed thousands of troops overnight to help police search for suspects in Easter suicide bomb attacks.
The government has acknowledged "major" lapses over its failure to prevent the horrific attacks despite receiving specific intelligence warnings.
Recriminations have flown since suicide bombers blew themselves up in luxury hotels and churches packed with Easter worshippers on Sunday.
The president has asked the police chief and top defence ministry bureaucrat to step down, though neither has done so yet.
Overnight, security forces using newly granted powers under the country's state of emergency arrested 16 more suspects in connection with the attacks.
Police have so far arrested 75 people but tensions remain high with several suspects unaccounted for.
Brigadier Sumith Atapattu said the army had increased its deployment by 1,300 to 6,300 overnight, with the navy and airforce also deploying 2,000 more personnel.
Authorities also announced a ban on drone flights and suspended licences issued to commercial operators with immediate effect.
Sri Lanka banned drones and unmanned aircraft and set off more controlled detonations of suspicious items Thursday four days after suicide bombing attacks.
Sri Lanka's civil aviation authority said that it was taking the aircraft measure "in view of the existing security situation in the country."
Hobby drones have been used by militants in the past to carry explosives. Iraqi forces found them difficult to shoot down while driving out the Islamic State group, whose members loaded drones with grenades or simple explosives to target government forces. And Yemen's Houthi rebels has used drones, most recently to target a military parade in January, killing troops.
Sri Lankan police continued their search for explosives, detonating a suspicious item in a garbage dump in Pugoda, about 35 kilometers (22 miles) east of Colombo.
The attacks Easter Sunday mainly at churches and hotels killed at least 359 people and wounded 500 more, the government said Wednesday. Most were Sri Lankan but the Foreign Ministry has confirmed 36 foreigners died. The remains of 13 have been repatriated. Fourteen foreigners are unaccounted for, and 12 were still being treated for injuries in Colombo hospitals.