Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith told journalists Friday that church officials had seen a leaked security document describing Roman Catholic churches and other denominations as a major target. He asked the faithful across Sri Lanka to stay home for their own safety and said: “We don’t want repetitions.”It was an extraordinary request for a Catholic clergyman to make, as churches often remain a refuge. The U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka has also warned the public to stay away from places of worship over the weekend — a stark alert underlining that authorities believe that attackers remain at large.  Authorities also told Muslims to worship at home rather than attend communal Friday prayers that are the most important religious service of the week, but several mosques held services anyway. At a mosque in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital, police armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles stood guard outside for hundreds of worshippers as the imam inside and others wept while praying to Allah to help their country. Sri Lanka’s government, crippled from a long political crisis between the president and prime minister last year, promised swift action to capture the militants still at large. President Maithripala Sirisena said about 140 people had been identified as having links to ISIS.A “major search operation has been undertaken,” Sirisena said. “Every household in the country will be checked.” Earlier Friday, police confirmed the militant group’s leader, Mohamed Zahran, died in the suicide bombing at the Shangri-La Hotel, one of six hotels and churches that were attacked on Sunday. Zahran appeared in the ISIS video claiming responsibility for the coordinated assault, and authorities in both Sri Lanka and Australia confirmed links between ISIS and the deadly violence.

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