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Canadians told to avoid non-essential travel to Sri Lanka following Easter Sunday attacks

A Canadian passport is displayed in Ottawa on July 23, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Ottawa has upgraded its travel advisory and is telling Canadians to avoid non-essential travel to Sri Lanka following the deadly bombings in that country on Easter Sunday

The government notes the decision to travel is your own choice, and adds your personal safety is also your responsibility.

More than 350 people were killed on April 21st when three churches and three luxury hotels were attacked in the greater Colombo area. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but authorities have said they remain unsure of its involvement.

The Canadian government says the situation remains volatile, and warns other attacks could take place.

For those living in or currently visiting Sri Lanka, the Government of Canada is urging people to avoid the areas impacted by the recent attacks, to remain extremely cautious, and to limit their movements as much as they can.

Canadians are also being told to give themselves extra time at airports for increased security measures, as well as to be aware of their surroundings at all times.

Sri Lankan authorities have declared a state of emergency, and a curfew had been imposed. Dozens of people have been arrested so far in connection with the attacks.

Meantime, Sri Lanka’s president has asked the defense secretary and national police chief to step down. This marks a dramatic internal shake-up after security forces shrugged off intelligence reports warning of possible attacks before the bombings, the president’s office said.

The president announced on Wednesday that he planned to change the head of the defense forces within 24 hours.

The scale of the bloodshed recalled the worst days of Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war, in which the Tamil Tigers, a rebel group from the ethnic Tamil minority, sought independence from the Buddhist-majority country. During the war, the Tigers and other rebels carried out a multitude of bombings. The Tamils are Hindu, Muslim and Christian.