THE Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the Easter attacks in Sri Lanka which killed at least 310 people, including a mum and two children from Essex.

Anita Nicholson, from Grays, and her two children, Alex, 14, and Annabel, 11, were killed in the attack at the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo - one of seven locations targeted by terrorists.

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

Loved - the Nicholson family

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

Security - soldiers stand guard in Sri Lanka. Picture: PA

Husband and dad Ben is the sole survivor of the Nicholson family. Police have arrested 40 suspects in connection with the attacks, including the driver of a van allegedly used by the suicide bombers and the owner of a house where some of them lived.

In the aftermath of the attacks, Sri Lanka’s president gave the military more powers to detain and arrest suspects. The powers were last-used during the country’s 26-year civil war, which ended in 2009.

In a statement paying tribute to his family, Mr Nicholson said: “I am deeply distressed at the loss of my wife and children.

“Anita was a wonderful, perfect wife and a brilliant, loving and inspirational mother to our two wonderful children.

“The holiday we had just enjoyed was a testament to Anita’s enjoyment of travel and providing a rich and colourful life for our family, and especially our children.

“Alex and Annabel were the most amazing, intelligent, talented and thoughtful children, and Anita and I were immensely proud of them both and looking forward to seeing them develop into adulthood.

“They shared with their mother the priceless ability to light up any room.” they entered and bring joy to the lives of all they came into contact with.”

President Maithripala Sirisena declared a day of mourning yesterday - a day after officials disclosed warnings had been received weeks ago of the possibility of an attack by the radical Muslim group blamed for the bloodshed.

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attacks but has offered no evidence to back up its claim.

The extremist group made the claim yesterday via its Aamaq news agency, saying: “The perpetrators of the attack that targeted nationals of the countries of the coalitions and Christians in Sri Lanka... are fighters from the Islamic State.”